"If Your Husband Calls, You Have To Go": Agency in Sexuality and Reproductive Health among Young Married Women in Bangalore, India

Rohini P. Pande, Independent Consultant
Tina Y. Falle, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
Sujit Rathod, University of California, San Francisco
Suneeta Krishnan, University of California, San Francisco

We examine whether resources typically considered empowering for women, such as education, increase their sexual agency. We compare the differential effect of resources on different realms of agency: sexual agency, family planning and financial decision-making in the home. We use qualitative and quantitative data from married women ages 16-25 in Bangalore slums. In multivariate analysis, education is not significantly associated with greater sexual agency, though it is with financial decision-making and fertility control. Knowledge of reproductive and sexual health before first sex is strongly and significantly associated with greater sexual agency once married. Our findings suggest that programmers and policy-makers who seek to increase young women’s control over their sexual lives within marriage, either from a rights perspective or one of improving reproductive health and reducing risks of HIV, need to consider the critical importance of providing adequate sexual and reproductive information to young women before first sex.

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Presented in Session 84: Gender, Sexual Behavior and HIV/STIs