violence against women india
An Indian woman who fled her home following domestic violenceReuters

Women in India who have a better education or earn more than their husbands are at greater risk of violence, a study has found.

Researchers at New York University have found a correlation between levels of education and earnings and the risk of severe intimate partner violence.

Findings also showed that less educated women, and those who are unemployed or earn very little, are far less likely to be beaten by their husbands.

Published in the journal Population and Development Review, study author Abigail Weitzman looked at data from India's National Family Health Survey between 2005 and 2006, which included information on domestic violence.

It also included details of the woman's relative earnings, employment and access to money. She looked at the occurrence, frequency and severity of violence.

Educated and high-earning women were 1.4 times more likely to experience intimate partner violence, 1.54 times more vulnerable to frequent violence and 1.36 times more likely to face severe attacks.

"My research suggests that there can be a backlash, including violence, toward women who attain greater education or earnings than their husbands."

Study author Abigail Weitzman

Women who are the sole earners are 2.44 times more likely to face frequent violence and 1.51 times more likely to suffer severe violence in comparison to unemployed women and women whose husbands were employed.

The increased risk fits a current theory about vulnerability to domestic violence. In gender deviance neutralisation, it is thought women's superior resources become viewed as gender deviant. As a result, the man uses violence to gain power and control in the relationship.

The study suggests that as divorce is extremely rare in India, the government should focus on alternatives to helping women in violent marriages, such as shelters and support groups.

Weitzman said: "In global development efforts, there is a large emphasis on women's employment and education. My research suggests that there can be a backlash, including violence, toward women who attain greater education or earnings than their husbands.

"Finding a solution will be tricky. Our response should not be to stop educating and employing women, but nor should we plough ahead without recognising this may put them at greater risk, and making changes to help protect them."