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Gender Variables and Reproductive Behaviour of Women from Rural Mangalore, South Karnataka, India

Introduction: There is a growing sense that health and development programs can contribute to transforming gender norms and achieving good health and gender equality. Married women in India lack control over decisions related to their sexual and reproductive behavior due to gender inequities, cultural norms, limited economics and social autonomy. Gender disparities in the form of adverse sex ratio, wage differentials and various health and education dimensions are still prevalent in the Karnataka State. Hence a cross-sectional study was conducted in a rural community of Mangalore, Karnataka, India. Objectives: This study was conducted to assess the reproductive health of women and their associations with gender variables prevailing in the community.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in a Shantibagh and Vaidyanath Nagar Community in a Kotekar Panchayat at Mangalore from December 2009 to January 2010. A pretested semi structured interview tool was used to collect the information on the epidemiological variables related to reproductive health and gender issues. By systematic random sampling techinique, 214 women in the reproductive age groups were interviewed.

Results were analysed using Statistical Package of Social Sciences (SPSS) 15.0. Results: There is a strong association between religion and type of Family as well as religion and women’s education status (p < 0.001). Average age at marriage is 21 years and average age at first pregnancy is 22.75 years. Average family size is 2.66. Prevalence of home deliveries is 11.5%. 91% of home deliveries are attended by Dai (Birth Attendants) (26% of Dai’s are not trained). 57% of women (n=114- 91 Hindu, 17 Muslim & 6 Christian) are using family planning measures and 90% of them decided with joint consultation (both husband and wife). Practice of family planning and traditional misbelief that “every couple must have a son” are strongly associated with type of religion (p < 0.001). Variables related to her decision making and freedom for education, wearing dress, sexual relation with husband, visiting parent’s place, going out with friends / coming home late etc show very poor figures. 37% of women in this study reported violence by husband or other family members.

Conclusions: This study shows that there is a correlation between religion, some gender factors and reproductive health behavior of women in rural Mangalore, India; thus highlighting the need for women empowerment by involving both men and women for Behaviour Change Communication.

Author(s): Radha Y. Aras, Irene Veigas, Neevan Dsouza

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