Confronting marital economic abuse

19th May 2017

More support is needed for Pakistani and Indian women fighting economic abuse in their marriages, according to a study by Sheffield Hallam University.

Punita Chowbey, a research fellow in the University's Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, says these women need to be supported against economic abuse not only through provision of a range of legal and financial services but also through addressing wider gender, socio-economic and ethnic inequalities that make women vulnerable to economic abuse in the first place. Her conclusions were drawn after completing a recent study of 84 mothers from Pakistani Muslim and Gujarati Hindu backgrounds who were living in Britain, India and Pakistan. The women had a range of occupational backgrounds and the majority of them were living with their husbands or with extended family. Punita interviewed the women about their household finances and economic well-being and out of the 84 women, 33 reported one or more forms of economic abuse. Economic abuse is recognised as a type of domestic violence and can come in a number of forms. For example, husbands can prevent their wives from acquiring or using financial resources, refuse to contribute to household expenses or exploit their wives' earnings and belongings. In Punita's study, the abuse ranged from having restrictions placed upon them about when they were allowed to work to having their valuables, particularly gold, exploited by their husbands or in-laws. The actual prevalence of economic abuse in England and Wales is not known but research suggests that around 50% or more of all women in abusive relationships experience financial abuse. "Although disputes over finances are known to be common in South Asian families, relatively little is known about the prevalence and severity of economic abuse of women from these backgrounds," said Punita. "Many women are suffering from economic abuse in silence, although they do not accept it as a natural or cultural phenomenon. "Some are fighting back in their own way, but their battles are limited by the socio-economic and legal resources available to them. Wherever the women I interviewed were based in Britain, India or Pakistan they faced substantial barriers, such as a lack of resources, access to legal guidance and family pressure, which prevented them from seeking support to fight against domestic violence, including economic abuse." For press information: Sarah Duce in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 4025 or email s.duce@shu.ac.uk

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