Marriage and motherhood: influences on women’s power in sexual relationships

Suneeta Krishnan, University of California, San Francisco
Rohini P. Pande, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
Sanyukta Mathur, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
Kalyani Subbiah, Samraksha, Bangalore
Eva Roca, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

This paper examines how the institutions of “marriage” and “motherhood” shape women’s power in marital sexual relationships. We analyze qualitative data from research on married men and women in South India. Both men and women consider marriage and motherhood key in defining a woman. Although women are constrained in multiple ways by marriage and motherhood, they also create spaces for resistance and negotiation within these contexts, often by conforming to their expected roles of wife and mother or by highlighting societal expectations regarding men’s duties and responsibilities as husbands and fathers. For example, if a husband reneges on his role as provider, a wife can refuse sex or exercise her control in other ways. In our paper, we explore how programs addressing women’s and men’s vulnerability to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections may take into account the influences of the institutions of “marriage” and “motherhood.”

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Presented in Session 153: Gender