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November 25 1999
SOUTH ASIA
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One in two Indian wives face beatings or abuse

FROM DAVID ORR, IN DELHI

NEARLY half of husbands in India abuse their wives either physically or sexually. This is the conclusion of an American study in the north of the country.

The survey, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is based on interviews with more than 6,000 men over two years in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state.

Of the men questioned, 46 per cent admitted that they beat their wives or abused them sexually. The survey, carried out by the University of North Carolina, shows that abuse is more common among men who have extra-marital affairs and among those in rural communities or of lower social standing.

Sheela Saravanan a researcher at the Institute of Social Studies Trust, based in Delhi, said: "I'm not at all surprised by the results. The real figures could be even higher. Violence against women is a problem all over India, especially in the north, where literacy levels are lower and women are less assertive than in the south."

Ms Saravanan said men had taken advantage of Hinduism and rigid social customs to keep women down. Abuse of women, she said, cut across all castes and classes in Indian society.

Female infanticide, child marriage and bride burning - the latter occurs in cases where the husband or husband's family is dissatisfied with the wife's behaviour or her failure to provide a large enough dowry - remain prevalent in India.

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