Nearly half of Indian men, women think domestic violence is 'fine' if wife doesn't perform her 'duties'

Respondents agreed that wife-beating was alright for reasons as simple as going out without telling the husband
Last Updated 09 May 2022, 03:39 IST

An overwhelming majority of men and women in Karnataka believe that it is fine to physically assault wives if they do not carry out what is perceived to be their duties, data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) show.

The data, released by the union ministry of health and family welfare, shows that this includes almost half of Indian men and women who believe the same. In Karnataka, this includes 76.9 per cent women and 81.9 per cent men, while across the country, forty-five per cent of women and 44 per cent of men were in agreement with the idea.

As part of the dataset, which showcases data on population, health, and nutrition parameters of each state and union territory in India, findings show that the respondents agreed that wife-beating was alright for reasons as simple as the wife going out without telling the husband, not cooking properly, or if the husband suspected her fidelity.

Disturbingly, respondents felt a wife deserved physical assault if she refuses sexual intercourse with the husband. About 11 per cent of women respondents and 9.7 per cent of male respondents felt a wife should be beaten up for refusing sex.

Most respondents – 32 per cent women and 31 per cent men – felt that disrespecting in-laws was a primary reason. This was followed by neglecting the house and children (28 per cent women and 22 per cent men). Another reason was arguing with the husband, and 22 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men believed a woman needed to be beaten for doing so. Suspicion of fidelity was a reason that 20 per cent of women and 23 per cent of men warranted domestic abuse.

Trends show that attitudes have worsened among men. Since the NFHS-4, agreement with any of the seven reasons listed in the dataset justifying wife-beating fell by 7 percentage points, from 52 per cent in NFHS-4, it fell down to 45 per cent. However, among men, it has increased by 2 percentage points, rising from 42 per cent in NFHS-4 to 44 per cent.

The findings also suggest that for both sexes, more respondents in South India believed domestic abuse was fine, including Telangana (83.8 per cent women and 70.8 per cent men), Andhra Pradesh (83.6 per cent women and 66.5 per cent men), and Tamil Nadu (78.3 per cent women and 56.2 per cent men).

Similarly, lesser respondents in urban than rural areas were comfortable with physical assault. The findings show that it declined from 53 per cent among women and 51 per cent among men with less than 5 years of schooling to 38 per cent among women, and 39 per cent among men with 12 or more years of schooling.

Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research said that while these findings show how normalised it is for women to be assaulted within society, she also questioned the methodology for such findings.

“The issue is about how much violence is acceptable with society as a rule, and not as an exception. Having said that, the methodology of data collection is questionable. Look at the questions – cooking food, taking care of children, etc. These are reinforcement of tropes, and the women is somehow under blame. The questions are not about whether they like being beaten up, or do they know their rights are violated, or if the women know about the Domestic Violence Act,” Kumari said.

(Published 08 May 2022, 16:00 IST)

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