Over 30 per cent women from 14 of the 18 states and Union Territories that were surveyed justify men beating their wives under certain circumstances, while lesser percentage of men rationalised such behaviour, according to the recent National Family Health Survey (NHFS).
According to the survey, around 80 per cent women justified men beating their wives in three states — Telangana (84 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (84 per cent) and Karnataka (77 per cent).
Manipur (66 per cent), Kerala (52 per cent), Jammu and Kashmir (49 per cent), Maharashtra (44 per cent) and West Bengal (42 per cent) were the other states and Union Territory where a large number of women justified men beating their wives.
To a question by the NFHS, “In your opinion, is a husband justified in hitting or beating his wife…?”, over 30 per cent women from as many as 14 states and Union Territories said, “yes”.
The survey put forward the probable circumstances under which a husband beats his wife: if he suspects her of being unfaithful; if she disrespects in-laws; if she argues with him; if she refuses to have sex with him; if she goes out without informing him; if she neglects the house or the children; if she doesn”t cook good food.
The most common reasons given by the respondents to justify beating were neglecting the house or children and showing disrespect to in-laws.
Of the 18 states, women respondents in 13 — Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Gujarat, Nagaland, Goa, Bihar, Karnataka, Assam, Maharashtra, Telangana, Nagaland and West Bengal — cited “disrespect to in-laws” as the main reason to justify beating.
The lowest population of women that justified beating by husbands was in Himachal Pradesh (14.8 per cent).
Among men, 81.9 per cent respondents from Karnataka said such behaviour is justified as against 14.2 per cent in Himachal Pradesh.
Ushasree, director of “Roshni”, a Hyderabad-based NGO which provides counselling and other services to those in emotional distress, said her organisation has seen a rise in sexual abuse and domestic violence during COVID-19.
“Some men appear to vent their frustration, caused by loss of income and other reasons due to the pandemic, on their family members,” she said.
“There is an increase in the number of calls we received because friction has grown among family members as they stay confined within four walls round-the-clock due to the pandemic,” she said. Though the number of calls is on the decline of late, women are generally facing domestic violence, she said.
Roshni is a member of Befrienders Worldwide, an international organisation. It has two helpline numbers, 040-6620 2001 and 040-6620 2000, she said.
In Telangana, where as much as 84 per cent women justified beating by their husbands, the government runs various schemes, some with the support of the central government, for protection and empowerment of women.
The schemes include Sakhi – One Stop Centre, Women Helpline – 181, Swadhar Greh and Ujjwala Homes, Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) and Mahila Shakti Kendras, official sources said.
Amita Pitre, lead specialist, Gender Justice: Oxfam India, said the organisation”s work in five states shows that harmful gender social norms help justify violence against women and girls.
“They are the tools of patriarchy and women are as much a part of the patriarchal society as men. In fact, women are trained in society to be strict guardians of these norms, especially for daughters and daughters-in-laws, and that is one of the most common ways they are perpetuated,” Ms Pitre told PTI.
“All the reasons cited to justify violence on women are a product of these norms: if she neglects the house or children, if she refuses to have sex with the husband, if she doesn”t cook food properly… all these define how women should behave in society. It is as important that women move away from such thinking as men if gender-based violence against women has to stop,” she said.