Journal Article

Consent and coercion: Examining unwanted sex among married young women in India

Context
Although there is a growing body of research examining the issue of nonconsensual sex among adolescents, few studies have looked at coerced sex within marriage in settings where early marriage is common, or at sex that may not be perceived as forced, but that is unwanted.

Methods
A cross-sectional study, using both survey research and in-depth interviews, was conducted among 1,664 married young women in Gujarat and West Bengal, India. Descriptive data and multinomial logistic regression were used to identify the prevalence and risk factors for occasional and frequent unwanted sex. Qualitative data were analyzed to examine the context in which unwanted sex takes place.

Results
Twelve percent of married young women experienced unwanted sex frequently; 32% experienced it occasionally. The risk of experiencing unwanted sex was lower among women who knew their husband fairly well at the time of marriage, regularly received support from their husband in conflicts with other family members or lived in economically better-off households. Frequent unwanted sex was associated with not yet having had a child or having become pregnant, with lower education and with agreeing with norms that justify wife beating.

Conclusion
For married young women, sex is not always consensual or wanted. Further research is required to determine the effects of unwanted sex on sexual and reproductive health outcomes and to help programs develop the best strategies for dealing with coerced sex within marriage.