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Open Access Research article

Association of various reproductive rights, domestic violence and marital rape with depression among Pakistani women

Faridah A Ali12*, Syed M Israr13, Badar S Ali2 and Naveed Z Janjua14

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

2 Department of Family Medicine, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

3 TACMIL Health Project, Islamabad, Pakistan

4 British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver, Canada

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BMC Psychiatry 2009, 9:77  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-77

Published: 1 December 2009

Abstract

Background

Depression among women is common in developing countries. Gender inequality can contribute to women's risk for depression. Lack of reproductive and sexual rights is an important marker of gender inequality and women do not have the freedom to express their reproductive and sexual needs in many parts of the world. Therefore we designed this study to determine the association of depression with lack of various reproductive rights and domestic violence among married women in Karachi, Pakistan.

Methods

A case-control study with 152 cases and 152 controls, which included women 15-48 years, recruited from two teaching hospitals from 1st June 2007 through 31st August 2007. The SRQ was administered to all subjects. A cut off score of 8 was used to confirm cases of depression diagnosed by physicians, and to exclude cases of depression from the controls. Self-administered questionnaire was used to assess the risk factors.

Results

61% of the cases and 43% of the controls were ever abused by spouse and the frequency of marital rape was 33% in cases and 13% in controls. After adjusting for the effects of other variables in the model, less than 18 years of age at marriage (OR 2.00; 95% CI = 1.07, 3.7), decision for marriage by parents (OR 3.51; 95% CI = 1.67, 7.37), abuse by in laws (OR 4.91; 95% CI = 2.66, 9.06), ≤ 3 hours per day spent with husband (OR 2.33; 95% CI = 1.34, 4.08), frequency of intercourse ≤ 2 times per week (OR 1.85; 95% CI = 1.06, 3.22) and marital rape (OR 3.03; 95% CI = 1.50, 6.11) were associated with depression among women.

Conclusion

In our study depression in married women was associated with younger age at marriage, lack of autonomy in marriage decisions, marital rape and domestic abuse by in-laws. Efforts should be directed towards creating awareness about the reproductive and sexual rights of women in Pakistan. Physicians should be trained to screen and identify women who may be at risk for psychological distress as a result of denial of reproductive rights so that they can support positive mental health outcomes through individual, family or marital counseling.