Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a pervasive global problem that violates the rights of millions of women each year and has been linked with a multitude of adverse physical, mental, and reproductive health outcomes. In Jordan, socio-cultural constructs of masculinity and female sexuality legitimize control exerted on and violence perpetrated against women. These include the gendered social norms that keep women in disempowered positions and limit their ability make fundamental reproductive decisions such as whether and when to become pregnant. This paper explores some of the mechanisms by which low levels of gender equity increase Jordanian women’s risk of violence and affect their exercise of reproductive agency.

Grounded in an empowerment framework and informed by a social ecological model, this research tested the hypothesis that experiencing IPV increases women’s risk of compromised reproductive agency, as evidenced by: increased odds of unintended pregnancy and unmet need for family planning (FP). These analyses revealed important social influences at the individual, interpersonal, and community levels that place women at increased risk for experiencing IPV. They also revealed that exposure to IPV is an independent risk factor for limited reproductive agency, with women who had experienced violence having a 39% increased risk of unintended pregnancy and 43% increased risk of unmet need for FP. The magnitude of these associations was even greater when community norms regarding IPV and women’s autonomy were considered in the model, showing increased risk of 46% and 69%, respectively.

These analyses reveal that IPV is significant barrier to the achievement of gender equity in Jordan, as it perpetuates gendered imbalances in power and also imposes great social and health costs on women. This paper discusses the implications of these analyses for designing research and programming initiatives to promote lasting change in support of gender equity and empowerment for Jordanian women.

Author Biography

Jennifer McCleary-Sills is a Senior Social and Behavioral Scientist at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Her research focuses on the gendered dimensions of health behavior and outcomes, with an emphasis on female autonomy and reproductive health. She has worked in more than a dozen countries throughout the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. She holds a doctorate from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.