Fewer men justify wife-beating than women
Notwithstanding the fact that a significant percentage of women surveyed continue to be victims of spousal violence, fewer men justify violence against wives compared to women, in a majority of states, reports from the national family health survey (NFHS-5) show.
As per the NFHS questionnaire, the respondents were asked: “In your opinion, is a husband justified in hitting or beating his wife in the following situations: If she goes out without telling him; if she neglects the house or the children; if she argues with him; if she refuses to have sex with him; if she doesn’t cook food properly; if he suspects her of being unfaithful; if she shows disrespect for in-laws.”
While responses for each situation differs, the survey shows that only 33% from the 18 states — Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, and West Bengal — saw a greater percentage of men justifying such violence.
For instance, 84% of women in Andhra Pradesh said it was OK for husbands to beat or hit wives while only 67% men agreed.
The figures from other states surveyed are: 37% (women) and 34% (men) in Bihar; 15% and 14% (respectively) in Himachal; 49% anf 45% in J&K; 30% and 28% in Gujarat; 44% and 36% in Maharashtra; 66% and 57% in Manipur; 84% and 70% in Telangana, and 30% and 21% in Tripura.
In Sikkim, Meghalaya and one more state, the percentage of men and women justifying such violence are equal.
Sociologist Samata Deshmane says: “…There are a variety of reasons for this, including lack of economic independence for women, societal mores and norms (that say a woman’s place is with her husband and so on), family settings (where parents don’t support daughters who cannot live with violent husbands), lack of education, etc. In most cases, the woman internalises such violence and doesn’t speak about it.”
However, men in Karnataka, Kerala, Assam, Mizoram, Nagaland, and West Bengal saw more men than women justify such violence.
In Karnataka, 77% of women and 82% of men said such violence is justified.
Karnataka is also the state where the highest percentage of women (44%) said they’ve experienced spousal abuse. This is followed by Manipur (40%), Bihar (39%), Telangana (36%), Assam (31%), Andhra (30%), West Bengal (27%), and Maharashtra (25%).
In most states, men displaying multiple marital control behaviours are seen to be a major cause for such violence, while alcohol is also a common reason.
True to Samata’s observation, the survey finds that in seven of the 18 states, only 10% or less women who experience violence caused by their husbands ever sought help and in nine other states, the percentage was higher than 10% but less than 20%.
Samata and another sociologist, while reiterating that similar reasons causing women to justify spousal violence keeps them from seeking help, said lack of legal awareness is another cause.
However, advocate Sudha Ramalingam, said: “I think it is not only a problem of awareness. These should not be viewed only as an issue caused by the dominant gender, as this is a much bigger problem of patriarchal ideology, which is reinforced by the society as a whole, including by women.”