Studies involving female sex workers (FSWs) have focused on violence from clients, often quantitatively identifying risk factors. Few studies have examined intimate partner violence (IPV) facing FSWs and none have included both male and female partners or taken a community-based research approach.
This qualitative community-based research is valuable for better understanding the mechanisms by which multi-levelled factors may be increasing vulnerability to IPV, from the perspective of women in sex work and their male intimate partners in rural India.
- Vulnerability to IPV was structural in nature, involving the interplay of issues on multiple levels, including gender role expectations and norms on violence.
- Though violence was accepted by many respondents either based on normative or practical considerations, there were those who stated that violence is not correct in any circumstance, indicating the potential for change among couples and the wider community.
- The process involved a multi-directional transfer of skills and knowledge that can benefit studies to come. The trustworthiness of results was strengthened with direct input from the community representatives.
These findings suggest that programmes must work not only at the individual and relationship levels to address triggers of violence by changing behaviour, but also at the community and societal levels to address the structural nature of IPV.