Nearly 84% of Telangana women who participated in a survey agree with domestic violence perpetrated against them. A majority of women surveyed in the state justified being hit or beaten by their husbands if they (the women) neglected the house or children, or showed disrespect for in-laws.
The latest figures on attitudes towards spousal violence in India were released recently by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) for the year 2015-16. The survey included 6,28,892 households across the country.
While Telangana women’s approval for domestic abuse is the highest in India, their counterparts in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh were not far behind. 82.2% of women in Andhra who were surveyed, justified violence against them by their husbands, stated NFHS.
But this trend was not isolated to the Telugu states. The percentage of women in all the southern states who supported domestic abuse exceeded the national average, which stood at 51.1%.
While in Tamil Nadu, 69.6% of women surveyed agreed with one or more reason for wife beating, 69.4% in Kerala women surveyed justified such spousal violence. 63.5% of Puducherry women had no qualms with being hit or beaten by a husband while 58% of women surveyed in Karnataka supported abuse perpetrated by a spouse.
‘Disrespecting in-laws and other justifiable reasons’
The reasons listed in the survey include ‘she goes out without telling him’, ‘she neglects the house or children’, ‘she argues with him’, ‘she refuses to have sexual intercourse with him’, ‘she doesn’t cook properly’, ‘he suspects she is unfaithful’, and ‘she shows disrespect for in-laws’.
Among the top reasons that justified domestic abuse against women in India are disrespecting in-laws (37.1%), neglecting the house and children (32.8%), and arguing with a husband (29.1%). Significantly, only 13.3% of women in India agreed with violence against them for refusing sexual intercourse with a husband.
Data from the survey shows women in India between the ages of 40 to 49 were most supportive of domestic violence, with 54.8% in agreement. The percentage justifying abuse marginally reduced among younger women. 47.7% of girls between the age of 15 and 19 agreed with violence by husbands.
There was also a marginal difference in attitudes of women in urban and rural areas. While 54.4% of rural women surveyed across the country agreed with domestic abuse, only 46.8% of urban women supported such violence.
But what about male attitude towards domestic violence against women?
According to NFHS-4, 41.2% of men in the country supported abuse against women. Like the women in Telangana, men in the state ranked the highest in India when it came to justifying abuse against wives. As per the data, 75.4% of Telangana men agreed with at least one reason for hitting or beating his wife.
Men in the other southern states were not far behind when it came to support for spousal violence. 66.9% of Andhra Pradesh men followed by 62.9% in Tamil Nadu, 58.1% in Kerala, 57.5% in Karnataka and 57.4% in Puducherry agreed with wife beating.
Incidentally, Sikkim was the state where men and women least supported violence against a wife, with 6.1% and 7.9% of those surveyed respectively justifying abuse.
In stark contrast to women, younger men supported domestic violence more, compared to their older male counterparts. 44.7% of men between the ages of 15 to 19 agreed with hitting or beating a wife while 40.1% of men in the ages of 40 to 49 justified abuse.
Correlation between attitudes and experiences?
Attitudes towards domestic violence appear to be shaped by lived experiences. According to the survey, 46% of women surveyed in Telangana reported to have experienced some form of violence committed by their husband. This was the second highest in India after Manipur, where 54.7% women surveyed reported domestic abuse.
45.2% of Andhra women had experienced either emotional, physical or sexual violence perpetrated by a spouse, while Tamil Nadu’s women reported 44.6%. In Puducherry, 40.3% of women faced some form of domestic abuse, while 24.4% women in Karnataka and 16.3% Kerala women experienced some form of violence, stated the survey.
The findings by NFHS has sparked shock, with many questioning the methodology adopted. Suja Susan George, a writer from Kerala took to Facebook to say, “I can’t believe that 69% of women in Kerala second domestic violence. Something has gone wrong in the research methodology here. I would have agreed if the report said there are women who sacrifice their opportunities for the sake of the families.”
She, however, adds, “Now if the survey is right on its part for the accuracy of their findings, then it is an immediate call for Kerala to flesh out an awareness campaign on domestic violence as soon as possible.”
Writer C S Chandrika also expressed being disturbed by the survey’s data, noting on Facebook, “The findings in the report are very disturbing. Meanwhile the media should have shown some responsibility in handling the story. They should have at least given space for the women voices who stand up against any domestic violence.”