Our research is funded by governments, foundations and other donors to advance the scientific field but also to support evidence-based policy and practice for population-level impact.
Intimate partner violence among adults, specifically male perpetrated violence against their female intimate partners, is a critical threat to public health with well-documented health consequences for women, both in the U.S. and globally. Partner violence among adolescents and young adults has been more recently recognized as a similar and significant public health threat. Girls and younger women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest per capita rates of physical and sexual violence (as high as 40%) than any age group. Partner and sexual violence has been associated with multiple negative physical, sexual, behavioral, and mental health outcomes among girls and young women. Emphasis on young populations is of particular importance in order to inform efforts to prevent the perpetration of such violence – as well as to reduce victimization and its debilitating effects, particularly during adolescent development into adulthood.
Gender empowerment is the process by which women and girls are able to gain choice, voice and autonomy over their bodies, lives and circumstances. Typically, gender empowerment engages structures and assets, as well as allies inclusive of men and boys, to move this process forward. UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls for Gender Equality and Empowerment for All Women and Girls, but there remains inadequate evidence on indicators to monitor progress on this goal, and interventions and policies to shape it. Economic empowerment approaches inclusive of girl education to vocation programs, self-help groups, and gender-transformative policies and programs show great promise. Our work in these realms focuses on research in the areas of measures development, epidemiologic research and intervention evaluation to advance the field.
The World Bank reports that of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the least progress has been made on MDG5, to reduce maternal deaths by 75% and to provide universal access to reproductive health services from 1990 to 2015. As we approach 2015, we can see only a 50% reduction in maternal deaths since 1990, and 140 million women worldwide indicate unmet need for family planning. Our research documents that women and girls contending with early and forced marriage, violence from spouses and in-laws, and family son preference are less likely to engage in effective family planning and more likely to report unplanned and unintended pregnancies. Based on this evidence, we have developed and evaluated family planning interventions that integrate gender equity training and partner violence prevention in South Asia and the United States.
Gender inequities and related violence have been well-documented by leading public health authorities (e.g. WHO) as primary contributing elements of the HIV epidemic among women. Gender-based violence, as well as gender norms that promote male dominance, have been demonstrated to inhibit women’s condom negotiating power with male sexual partners, and increase women’s risk for HIV. More recent work has also found that males who perpetrate violence are more likely to test positive for HIV/STI than males who do not report perpetration, and thereby heightening risk among their female partners as well. Furthermore, gender inequities reduce women’s access to material goods, resources, social mobility, as well as other life opportunities; these social and economic disparities play a critical role in increasing women’s HIV risk. Our research focuses on the intersection between gender inequities, gender violence, and women’s risk for HIV through epidemiologic research aimed to inform future programmatic and policy HIV prevention efforts.
More than 10 million girls marry as minors each year. Most of these girl child marriages occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, disproportionately affecting girls living in poverty, conflict, and without education. Our research documents that such early marriages increase girls’ risk for reproductive health concerns, violence from husbands and in-laws, and maternal and infant mortality. Using scientific evidence, we are supporting development of advocacy, policy and programmatic approaches to eliminate this global health and human rights concern.
Extensive research from across world regions documents the importance of men and boys’ involvement in family planning, maternal health, prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and prevention of gender-based violence against women and girls. Males affect contraceptive and HIV/STI prevention decision-making, and may in some cases control it. Research demonstrates that males who are more controlling of reproduction and who engage in riskier sexual practices are also more likely to be physically and sexually abusive to their female partners. Our team engages in epidemiologic research to develop evidence-based models of intervention targeting men or boys and focused on gender equity as well as behavioral risk reduction; we also conduct rigorous evaluation of male-focused interventions, including those we develop, in South Asia and the United States.
Sex trafficking of girls and women is occurring on a global scale and is recognized as both a violent gender-based crime and major human rights violation. Public health research demonstrates that girls and women who have been trafficked experience a multitude of physical and mental health consequences. One particular area of focus has included greater HIV vulnerabilities among girls and women who have been trafficked into sex trade, with studies documenting a high prevalence of HIV (up to 38%), particularly among girls who were trafficked at a younger age. While the majority of these studies have been conducted in the context of South Asia, we have most recently expanded this work to include a focus on this critical issue within Latin America as well