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Thursday, December 25, 2008

I'll be your hero, baby

Besides the amazing data points gathered by the National Family Health Survey (2005-06); one of the most interesting pertain to attitudes and behavior with respect to beating up a woman by her husband in India. As it shows clearly, the oppressed firmly believe in their right to remain oppressed. 54.4% of women respondents in this comprehensive survey believed that “a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife”. Comparatively, only 50.6% of the surveyed men agreed to this statement. Of course, there may be a bias the way in which men respond to this question; but the fact that women are more assertive in their right to get beaten is rather astounding.

All the same, attitudes of men and women are fairly similar when it comes to wife beating. Both feel that “showing disrespect for in-laws” or “negligence towards children” is the most deserving case for beating while “refusal to have sex” followed by “bad cooking” is the least deserving reason. May be 50-cents and other rappers could take a cue from this.

The results are largely independent of religion, age group, family size or employment status. One exception is the Jains for whom only around 28% of respondents said that the wife deserved occasional beating (as opposed to the typical of 50% for other religions). But attitudes do differ strikingly among groups with different educational and wealth status (Proportion of those supporting wife beating among the most educated and the wealthiest is approximately half of that among the least educated and the least wealthy). Even then, around one third of men and women who have received over 12 years of education pledge whole-heartedly to wife beating. Attitudes also differ significantly by states, with several North-Eastern states, Jammu and Kashmir and Southern states showing high enthusiasm for wife-beating. This is surprising given that many of these states are known to be at the verge of being matriarchal societies. In fact, 89.7% of women in Manipur agree that wife can be beaten by husband for one reason or the other.

Bizarrely, the survey also highlights that the 6% of men agree that when a wife refuses to have sex with her husband, he has the right to refuse her financial support. On the same issue, 5.7% of men believe that they have the right to use physical force for sex while 4.2% believe that they have the right to visit another woman.

Personally, the results of the survey (see this link for the amazingly comprehensive data) have left me confused. Is it really true that the oppressed are the biggest proponents for their remaining oppressed? Is India as a country way too far behind for egalitarianism or even basic human rights? Or is wife-beating hardly an issue, particularly for women?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happened to come across your post....As long as the oppressed people...specially women don't take a stand....and say NO to oppression, it's difficult to expect a soceity free of oppression.

And this might be possible if women are groomed not to tolerate nonsense and to be aware of their basic human rights.

Not sure if you have read the bhagavad gita or not, but it does mention that the person tolerating injustice is doing a greater crime than the person who is commiting the crime. So may be this thing needs to be put into their mind.