How well does the World Health Organization definition of domestic violence work for India?


Domestic violence (DV) is reported by 40% of married women in India and associated with substantial morbidity. An operational research definition is therefore needed to enhance understanding of DV epidemiology in India and inform DV interventions and measures. To arrive at a culturally-tailored definition, we aimed to better understand how definitions provided by the World Health Organization and the 2005 India Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act match the perceptions of behaviors constituting DV among the Indian community. Between September 2012 and January 2013, 16 key informant interviews with experts in DV and family counseling and 2 gender-concordant focus groups of lay community members were conducted in Pune, India to understand community perceptions of the definition of DV, perpetrators of DV, and examples of DV encountered by married women in Pune, India. Several key themes emerged regarding behaviors and acts constituting DV including 1) the exertion of control over a woman's reproductive decision-making, mobility, socializing with family and friends, finances, and access to food and nutrition, 2) the widespread acceptance of sexual abuse and the influences of affluence on sexual DV manifestations, 3) the shaping of physical abuse experiences by readily-available tools and the presence of witnesses, 4) psychological abuse for infertility, dowry, and girl-children, and 5) the perpetration of DV by the husband and other members of his family. Findings support the need for a culturally-tailored operational definition that expands on the WHO surveillance definition to inform the development of more effective DV intervention strategies and measures.