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Marriage among the urban poor of Dhaka: instability and uncertainty


  • Sonia Jesmin

    (Policy Research Department, Institute of Development Policy Analysis and Advocacy, Proshika, Dhaka, Bangladesh)

  • Sarah Salway

    (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK)


Qualitative and quantitative data from the Urban Livelihoods Study (ULS) are used to describe the patterns of marriage, and in particular the rising incidence of marital instability, among the bustee (slum) population of Dhaka. The changing nature of bustee society provides greater options for women compared with their rural counterparts. Reduced social sanctions against divorce, dysfunction of the goshti, weaker familial ties and increased options for labour force participation are giving women greater freedom. Bustee women appear more able to avoid serious domestic violence by rejecting unfavourable marital ties. However, despite these factors, women are faced with a dilemma regarding marriage. Marital discord, insecurity and instability are high and yet marriage remains a necessity. The unstable nature of bustee life, harassment from men, social and economic dependency, the difficulty of returning to the village, and absence of strong kin networks, force women to marry. On balance, women appear to be suffering from the increasingly unstable and uncertain nature of marriage. The experience of marital breakdown has serious social and financial implications. Women living without husbands are poorer than their married counterparts. Children, too, are faring badly. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Sonia Jesmin & Sarah Salway, 2000. "Marriage among the urban poor of Dhaka: instability and uncertainty," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(5), pages 689-705.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jintdv:v:12:y:2000:i:5:p:689-705 DOI: 10.1002/1099-1328(200007)12:5<689::AID-JID704>3.0.CO;2-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Moser, Caroline O. N., 1998. "The asset vulnerability framework: Reassessing urban poverty reduction strategies," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 1-19, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Salway, Sarah & Rahman, Shahana & Jesmin, Sonia, 2003. "A Profile of Women's Work Participation Among the Urban Poor of Dhaka," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 881-901, May.
    2. M. Najeeb Shafiq, 2009. "A reversal of educational fortune? Educational gender gaps in Bangladesh," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(1), pages 137-155.
    3. Wood, Geof, 2003. "Staying Secure, Staying Poor: The "Faustian Bargain"," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 455-471, March.
    4. Toseef Azid & Rana Ejaz Ali Khan & Adnan M.S. Alamasi, 2010. "Labor force participation of married women in Punjab (Pakistan)," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 37(8), pages 592-612, July.

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