Social media is flooded with messages of women's empowerment and their rights inside the house and outside. However, how many of us do realise what we say on these platforms? These statistics of the women's take on their rights has taken us by surprise. 

According to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data, in Odisha, 52.1% of the women feel that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she disrespects her in-laws. 32.6% women back domestic violence if it is instigated by argument with the husband. On an overall, it comes around as even more shocking when  59.2 per cent women and 40.8 per cent men agree that wife-beating is justified for:

  • Going out without informing in-laws
  • Neglecting house and children
  • Not cooking properly
  • Refusing to have sex 
  • Husband suspecting her of being unfaithful

Even working class, educated women are not far behind in their laid-back thinking. Consider these data, 46% of educated women, along with 63 per cent working women 57.4 pc unemployed women and 64.3 pc illiterate women back the reasons behind domestic violence. 

Incidentally, the men in Odisha seem to be more enlightened pertaining to the rights of women at home, as compared to other state. Unlike the 12% married women who justify beating for not having sex with husband, 6% married men in Odisha believe otherwise. In fact, 85% men in Odisha do not believe in any kind of domestic violence if the woman of the household refuses to have sex with the husband. 

Having said that, what bothers experts more is the fact that this attitude toward domestic violence has not seen any change in the past decade. In a survey conducted by NFHS-3 in 2005-2006, 61.2% women and 41.6% men support wife-beating. A researcher and surveyor at the Mumbai-based International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Dr Manas Pradhan, speaking to the New Indian Express said, "The data show how women in the State perceive their gender role in the society.

Though some of the reasons should not be justified, women are favouring means they are socialised in such ways that they believe these are normal. It is a reflection of our existing perceived gender role."

The survey also found that 34.8% of the women in the state are subjected to physical and sexual violence. 87.8 pc husbands  are responsible for committing physical violence on their wives and 98% of men have indulged in sexual violence. Even more shocking is the fact 3% women have experienced some or the other sort of violence during pregnancy. 

Figures across border

Alarmingly, this is not a common scene in India alone. In a blog- WHY SOME WOMEN JUSTIFY THE VIOLENCE THEY EXPERIENCE-by the Equality Institute, the figures percolate across borders.This 2016 article reports the population-based studies using the World Health Organization Multi-country study methodology and deciphers that wife-beating is considered as a husband's right over his wife and a normal part of marriage in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. In fact, in recent studies, In recent studies, 41% of women in Turkey, 40% in Zimbabwe, and 46% in Cambodia reported intimate partner violence as justifiable under certain circumstances.

Incidentally, the justifications for domestic abuse are the same across border. These include:

  • If the wife is disobedient
  • If the wife argues with her husband
  • If the wife is unfaithful
  • If the wife goes out without telling her husband
  • If the wife burns the food or fails to prepare it on time
  • If the wife neglects the children
  • If the wife refuses to have another child
  • If the wife refuses to have sex with the husband

The article points out how the justification approach works with the psyche of the woman who starts blaming herself for the violence and fails to take legal help. A sense of shame sets, accompanied by low self worth for the victim. Having said that, as Dr Pradhan rightly points out, reformation of the society should not be legal alone, it has to be internal too.

Women need to be more aware of their rights as human beings and as individuals. They have to understand that the gender roles that they believe as normal is actually not the reality. Women have a diversified role to play, apart from their stereotypical roles at home and their opinions matter as much as a man's opinion.