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The impact of legislative change on reported domestic violence against women in India
Authors: Aparna Mathur, and Sita Nataraj Slavov
Source: Economics Bulletin, 37(4): 2655-2664
Topic(s): Domestic violence
Gender-based violence (GBV)
Women’s empowerment
Country: Asia
Published: NOV 2017
Abstract: This paper investigates whether two legislative changes aimed at empowering women did in fact lower the risk of domestic violence for women in India. We use the National Family Health Survey, a nationally representative household dataset to explore this issue. We exploit a legislative change geared at improving the political representation of women by reserving at least one-third of seats in the local Panchayats for women. The change to representation was implemented at different dates depending on the timing of elections. The second change is a natural experiment wherein five states made amendments to their inheritance laws allowing daughters equal status as sons in the right to inherit the joint property of the father. We use this arguably exogenous variation to study whether the improvement in women's autonomy in these states as a result of the passage of this law had any impact on the likelihood that they report being victims of domestic abuse. Our results suggest that improved representation increased the reported probability of violence. There are two competing explanations for these results. First, women may have experienced retaliation by men who feared the erosion of their power and opposed the policy change. Second, the policy change may have made women more willing to report violence to interviewers.