Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an important global health concern, having been linked with a wide range of poor mental and physical health outcomes. There are many community and household-level factors associated with IPV, but there has not yet been much research on its relationship with food insecurity. New research
explores the relationships between the two among married women in Nepal. Researchers found that 50% of the women reported some level of food insecurity. Ten percent reported emotional, sexual or physical IPV. Women who experienced food insecurity were more likely to experience emotional and physical abuse, even after taking into account different aspects of women’s status and empowerment. There was not a significant link with sexual IPV, possibly because stressful situations around food may be more likely to trigger emotional and physical abuse. Women whose husbands drank alcohol were more likely to report all 3 forms of IPV. Women with more decision-making power also faced more IPV. This may be because exercising their power to make decisions could lead to more tension in the household. Women who shared a household with in-laws were more protected from emotional abuse.
While women’s status explained some of the relationship, food insecurity remained strongly associated with emotional and physical IPV. These findings are likely relevant for women living throughout south Asia and other regions with low women’s status. Large scale interventions, like those focused on women’s economic and social empowerment, may be the best approach to tackling this problem. Among married women in Nepal, being food insecure is associated with higher odds of some types of IPV, specifically emotional and physical IPV. Accounting for women’s level of empowerment explains some of the relationship between food insecurity and IPV. It is essential that interventions to prevent IPV address household stressors such as food insecurity among married, Nepalese women, perhaps through cross-sectoral approaches. Such structural interventions are likely to reduce IPV for married women across South Asia who live in a similar levels of gender discrimination and food insecurity.