The impact of household form and marital residence on the economic dimensions of women’s vulnerability to domestic violence. The case of Tibetan Communities

Hamsa Rajan


This study draws on 52 in-depth interviews and participant observation conducted on the northeastern edge of the Tibetan plateau between May 2012 and August 2013. Women’s domestic violence vulnerability is assessed, looking particularly at various types of marital and decision-making arrangements within households. Different forms of extended family living arrangements and abuse by women’s in-laws emerge as crucial sites of analysis. This study adds to current knowledge by discussing the specific impact of household marital form on domestic violence, a topic that is under-addressed within domestic violence research. Matrilocal arrangements can offer the best protection to women while patrilocal arrangements put women in a position of greatest vulnerability. Women’s vulnerability in patrilocal marriage hinges on their land-based material constraints, their social isolation, and women’s low status vis-à-vis husbands and in-laws. However, various sites of vulnerability exist in all marital forms, including within a third marital arrangement, here termed marrying ‘in the middle.’ The study findings contribute knowledge regarding the economic dimensions of women’s vulnerability in a developing country setting. The study findings are largely in line with both the imbalance theory of domestic violence and the emphasis on women’s fall-back position found within theories of household bargaining power. 

Hamsa RAJAN,Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford, Barnett House, 32 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2ER, United Kingdom. E-mail:


domestic violence; abuse by in-laws; Tibet; patrilocal marriage

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ISSN: 2035-5556

Reg. Tribunale di Roma n. 3321/54