August 7, 2008
h/l: State women are strange paradoxes
More educated than before but harbour regressive attitudes about domestic violence and gender roles
Mumbai: The adage 'it is difficult to understand women' is probably true. Now the government has published findings that can back this claim. As per the National Family Health Survey 3 (NFHS 3) findings published for Maharashtra, the State's women are more emancipated than before but a surprising majority believes that a man is justified in beating up his wife.
This startling contradiction comes through in the report compiled for Maharashtra by three contributors, all women - Sulabha Parasuraman, Sunita Kishor and Y Vaidehi - who are affiliated with the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS).
As per their findings, "More than half of the women in the State have had sexual intercourse by the time they are 18 years of age, while half of the men have had sexual intercourse by the time they are about 24 years." However, this is not a sign of sexual liberation, but because many women are marrying at early ages.
"The earlier age at sexual intercourse for women than men is a consequence of the fact that in Maharashtra first sexual intercourse largely occurs within marriage and women marry at younger ages than men," the report says. Interestingly, a high 74 per cent of married women participate in making decisions for their households, either independently or jointly with their spouses.
The higher numbers of decision-making women abound in the State's urban areas, with 'women in nuclear households and women employed for cash being more likely to participate in the household decisions,' the contributors say.
"About 20 per cent of women have a bank or savings account that they themselves use, higher than the national average of 15 per cent," is an interesting finding. But with this rosy picture of women's empowerment, come a few startling findings.
"About 51 per cent of women believe that it is justifiable for a husband to beat his wife under specific circumstances. Women are most likely to say wife beating is justified if a woman shows disrespect for her in-laws (41 per cent) or if she neglects the house or children (34 per cent). Forty-eight per cent men agree that wife beating is justified under specific circumstances."
And yet, about two-third of women believe a woman can refuse to have sex with her husband if he has a sexually transmitted disease, if he has had sexual intercourse with other women, or if she is not in the mood.
Higher levels of education among women has resulted in a greater awareness of contraceptive methods both for themselves and their partners. "About 65.8 per cent women felt that having two children was enough, while only 3.1 per cent wanted three children. Correspondingly, 14.6 per cent men wanted three children," the findings reveal.
Also, more women want sons instead of daughters and a huge 80.1 per cent women aged 30-39 years want at least one son. The figures are much lower for men.