Although working women help in bringing financial stability to a family, their professional life often subjects them to increased domestic violence in India, according to a new study.

The study carried out between 2005 and 2006 on 750 married women aged between 16 and 25 in Bangalore, found that those who became employed during that time had an 80 per cent higher chance of being abused by their husbands than women who remained unemployed.

It also found that women whose husbands had difficulty finding or keeping a job were more than twice as likely to experience domestic violence during that period.

The research, conducted by RTI International, a North Carolina-headquartered research institute, in association with Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore and other U.S. institutions, examined the association between spousal employment status and physical domestic violence in the southern Indian city.

According to Suneeta Krishnan, an epidemiologist in RTI’s Women’s Global Health Imperative, the women subjected to the study were interviewed three times during the two-year period and their research “highlights the complex challenges of women’s empowerment”.

“While increasing women’s access to meaningful and fair employment, we must recognise the potential social repercussions of these efforts,” she said

“Our study is consistent with evidence that rapid changes in gender roles and relations can lead to backlash, including violence against women.”

Ms. Krishnan said key social expectation of men once married is that they work and earn for their family, and failure to meet this expectation can lead to social disapproval.

“Social disapproval, a sense of inadequacy and frustration and related stressors associated with living in poverty may increase the likelihood of men perpetrating domestic violence,” she reasoned.

Fifty-seven per cent of women participating in the study reported having experienced domestic violence prior to joining the study.

Additionally, 19 per cent of women who had not experienced domestic violence prior to the study experienced it at some point during the two-year period.

The findings also showed that women in “love” marriages were almost twice as likely to experience domestic violence than those in more traditional arranged marriages, highlighting the adverse impact of flouting social norms.

“This study underscores the urgent need for programmes that address the impact of poverty and gender norms on men and programmes that explicitly focus on promoting unbiased gender attitudes and norms so that we can achieve a violence-free and gender-equitable future,” Ms. Krishnan added.

The research was funded by the U.S. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.