He tells you your work is to give birth: "Reproductive coercion among informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya"

Women in informal settlements in Nairobi are expected to constantly give birth, a new study has indicated.

Those who try to limit the number of pregnancies are subjected to violence by their male partners and the entire community, the study shows.

The study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in the US and Ujamaa Africa, a local NGO dealing with reproductive health, was conducted in Korogocho, Kariobangi, Dandora, Huruma and Mathare slums between June and July last year.

Respondents of the study, whose findings will be released today during the fifth International Conference on Family Planning in Kigali, Rwanda, were above 18 and shared their experiences with their partners.

The study dubbed “He tells you your work is to give birth" shows women experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse for challenging continuous childbearing".

Constant childbearing

The study shows that culture has compound the problem by supporting constant childbearing even when the financial circumstances say otherwise. A woman's physical ability to give birth is ignored.

“When women recognise potential constraints and try to limit number of children, they are faced with severe repercussions,” said Shannon Wood from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Further, the study shows strong cultural beliefs against use of condoms.

“Condom use within monogamous relationships was highly stigmatised. Women who asked their partners to use condoms were faced with various accusations, including unfaithfulness and violence. In other cases, the men just refused,” Wood said.

Benjamin Omondi, from Ujamaa Africa, said women in informal settlements would not dare ask their partners to use condoms, as it often leads to conflicts that would jeopardise their own safety.

Ben Asira, also from Ujamaa Africa, said: “Therefore, they would comply just to avoid conflicts, even if this puts them at the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/Aids."

The report shows women are not allowed to use any form of contraceptives.

“Women understand the financial consequences of having children. However, their partners are less likely to understand economic repercussions,” the research shows.

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informal settlementsGiving birthreproductive healthchildbearing