Coercing your wife to have more children than she initially wanted may soon be regarded as a form of domestic violence.
A new global campaign describes pregnancy pressure, coercion, and birth control sabotage as intimate partner violence.
Campaigners say this form of violence has devastating consequences including unintended pregnancy, abortion, and psychological trauma.
This is contained in an article published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology this week.
“Ultimately, (reproductive coercion) is about power and control — the perpetrators get off on that feeling of having complete power over their partners, even to the point of controlling a bodily function exclusive to women: pregnancy,” said lead author Dr. Jeanna Park of the University of Illinois in Chicago.
“And although it seems irrational to threaten, coerce or trick a woman into acts that lead to pregnancy, perpetrators will then often force their partners to abort the pregnancy, further perpetuating the cycle of partner violence,” Park told Reuters Health by email.
Most often, women are the victims of reproductive coercion, but men can be victimized as well, the authors write. It often goes unrecognized by doctors or victims themselves.
Birth-control sabotage can include hiding or destroying contraceptive pills, removing vaginal rings, patches or intrauterine devices (IUDs) without a partner’s permission, removing or breaking condoms, or not withdrawing when that was the agreed upon method of contraception.
Coercion can also include threatening to leave or to hurt a partner who does not agree to become pregnant, or who does not agree to terminate a pregnancy, depending on the desires of the perpetrator.
In Uganda, women on average, give birth to nearly two children more than they want while more more than four in 10 births are unplanned, according to the 2011 demographic survey.
The UDHS report also shows that one in three married Ugandan women (34%) wish to delay childbirth or space their children, but cannot access contraceptives.
In addition, only 31% of women and 19% of men reported using a condom during their last sexual intercourse, according to the 2012 AIDS Indicator Survey.
Dr. Wilfred Ochan an assistant representative with United Nations Population Fund noted in an earlier interview with New Vision, that several researches had proved that where a woman wanted to stop at 5.1 children, her husband normally insisted on an about 5.7 children.
“Men are the pushers for more children, yet women want less number of children,” he said.
Referring to the traditional methods of family planning, Ochan stated: “It takes patience and understanding for a man to respect your safe days. When he, for instance, returns home very drunk, be very scared. You find women secretly using the contraceptives, because they are afraid of their husbands!”
He worried, that this poses a risk to a woman’s health.
“For a woman, they have so many issues on their mind, because they are the ones who carry the pregnancy. Every time a woman gets pregnant; she stands a choice of dying. Every pregnancy is a risk, no matter how healthy you are,” said Ochan.
some local activists welcome the move to categorise reproductive coercion as violence. They note that increasingly, women who are poorly educated, have low economic means, or rely on partners for income are more vulnerable to negotiate safe sex.
“She can’t say no to more children, because she fears the man will stop providing for money. They end up burdened by the vicious cycle of poverty. The younger girls tend to think that abortion is the solution and suffer complications in the process,” says Cissy Lutaaya, the programmes officer with Mengo Development Link.
Statistics obtained from the U show that in Uganda 297,000 abortions are done every year, and of these 140,000 abortions happen among girls between the ages of 15 and 24.
Campaigners say, if a woman chooses to stay with the perpetrator, discrete methods of contraception that are less susceptible to tampering, such as an intrauterine device, implant, or contraceptive injection should be discussed.