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The COVID-19 Pandemic in the Nawalparasi District of Nepal: a mixed methods assessment of increased alcohol use and violence against women

BMC Public Health. 2023 Mar 18;23(1):524. doi: 10.1186/s12889-023-14997-1.


BACKGROUND: In Nepal and across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has primed an environment for increased rates of violence against women (VAW). This paper explores pandemic-driven economic insecurity and increased alcohol use as instigators of VAW and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) within newly married households in the rural, Nawalparasi region of Nepal.

METHODS: This study is a secondary analysis of data obtained from the Sumadhur Intervention pilot study that has been previously described and demonstrates successful implementation of group-based, household-level intervention for women’s empowerment and sexual and reproductive health education (1). Our three sets of data were collected before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first set is from a Longitudinal Cohort of 200 newly married women who were surveyed twice a year from February 2017 through July 2020. The second data set is a subset cohort of newly married women, their husbands, and their mothers-in-law (31 women, 31 husbands and 31 mothers-in-law) who participated in Sumadhur in January 2021. The third data set was obtained through in-depth interviews in July 2021 from 15 households following Sumadhur. The interviews were thematically coded, and subthemes were identified. A t-test of the January 2021 survey data set was run to look at correlations between income loss, alcohol consumption and experience of IPV among newly married women. All other survey data was analyzed for change over time.

RESULTS: At three months after the onset of the pandemic (July 2020), the Longitudinal Cohort survey data from newly married women reported increased rates of husbands’ alcohol use as well as personal experiences of IPV as compared to pre-pandemic averages. There was a statistically significant difference (p < 0.001) in the effects of income loss on increased alcohol use and experience of IPV. Qualitative results iterated the common theme of alcohol use and economic insecurity as upstream instigators of VAW in the community.

CONCLUSIONS: In the Nawalparasi district of Nepal, the pandemic has led to unstable economic situations that have instigated alcohol use among men, and increased rates of IPV among young, newly married women, and reports of VAW in the community. We have demonstrated a need for urgent programmatic and policy responses aimed at reducing VAW and IPV and protecting women during times of uncertainty and crisis.

PMID:36934217 | DOI:10.1186/s12889-023-14997-1

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