Two of every five young married Indian women face unwanted sex frequently or occasionally, according to two major studies by the Population Council.
The surveys show that "marriage does not necessarily make sex voluntary, pleasurable or safe for young Indian women" and can even be unsafe. The council interviewed nearly 4,000 women across Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal.
One of the studies, authored by senior programme official KG Santhya, found that 44 per cent of young married women faced unwanted sex either frequently or occasionally.
<b1>The studies found that sex is forced upon large proportions of urban women. "While we may think urban women will be freer of violence, this isn’t so. The real point is that marriage isn’t necessarily safe for young women," said Shireen J Jejeebhoy, senior associate at Population Council’s Southeast Asia office and author of the other survey.
Jejeebhoy and colleague Rajib Acharya focused on 2,306 young married women, between 15 and 24 years, in rural and urban Maharashtra. About 17.2 per cent urban women reported being beaten at least once by their spouses and 15.5 urban women reported forced sex¸ affecting their well-being.
The studies also suggest that cultural reasons — including the belief that sex is a routine duty — often don’t let Indian women view sex as "forced" even when it is unwanted.
However, women who knew their husbands well at the time of marriage faced lower risks of unwanted sex. Older women too were less vulnerable. A majority of housewives who give in to forced sex do so because they cannot resist.