Several policy initiatives support the empowerment of women to improve their reproductive health. Little is known, however, about the inverse effect that reproductive health might have on women’s empowerment. Women are pressured to conform to their reproductive role, and an inability to do so might affect their empowerment, including control over their own body. Using a panel dataset of 504 married women in Northern Tanzania, we find that women who experienced a pregnancy loss show more tolerant views of partner violence and that child mortality lowers their perceived control over the sexual relationship with their spouse. The number of living children did not affect bodily integrity. These results confirm that women’s bodily integrity is partly dependent on the ability to fulfill their reproductive role. They strengthen the case for policies and programs that improve women’s reproductive health and underline the importance of counselling after pregnancy or child loss.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council. Judith Westeneng is post-doctoral researcher, Rutgers, the Netherlands and Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam. Ben D’Exelle is Professor in Development Economics, University of East Anglia, School of International Development, Norwich, United Kingdom.