Volume 37 Number 5
Published: October 1, 2006
How do young married women fare in an urban slum in Bangladesh? This article is based on in-depth ethnographic fieldwork among 153 married girls aged 15–19 in a Dhaka slum, carried out during December 2001–January 2003. The author finds a shift away from the traditional arranged marriage practice, with 81 of the 153 young women having ‘love’ marriages. Young women now have greater mobility and freedom to choose their own partners, but at the same time face greater instability in marital relations. The lived experiences of engaging in sexual relations with their spouses are fraught with contradictions. Without economic independence and social autonomy, many young women tolerate bad marriages, and unsafe and painful sex as a survival strategy. Some however have more leeway to set the terms of engagement, using their sexuality as a resource to attract their husbands and secure his material support, and may even enjoy doing so.