New Delhi. Sept. 15: Men might be paying a steep price for patriarchy ' they die younger than women. A new study has shown that patriarchy will hurt both women and men, and it causes men to have shorter life spans.
The study, the first attempt to explore the relation between patriarchy and male mortality in 51 countries across four continents, has shown that the greater the level of patriarchy, the higher is the rate of mortality among men.
A shorter male life span is a global phenomenon. On average, men die three to seven years earlier than women. “Patriarchy, acting through behaviour, makes men die earlier,” said Alex Scott-Samuel, a senior lecturer in public health at the University of Liverpool.
Using global health statistics, Scott-Samuel and his colleagues used female homicides as an indicator of the degree of patriarchy in different countries. The assumption was that the higher the level, or rate, of female homicides, the greater the extent of patriarchy.
The same patriarchal practices through which men dominate, exploit and oppress women are also harming men, the researchers said in their study published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Patriarchy encourages specific male roles such as excessive risk-taking and competitiveness, aggression and suppression of emotions. Such behaviour, the scientists speculate, can translate into shorter life spans for men.
Risk-taking can lead to higher accident rates, including fatal traffic accidents. “Excessively competitive men, or men who suppress their emotions, would be vulnerable to high stress which, in turn, is a risk factor for heart disease,” Scott-Samuel said.
“If we lived in a society where patriarchy did not operate, the differences in life span betwen men and women would probably not occur,” Scott-Samuel said.
He said the Israeli kibbutzim ' farms with a relatively egalitarian society where men help raise children and women work on farms ' provide a vivid example of the effect of the absence of patriarchy. The life span of men in the kibbutzim approaches that of women.
The Liverpool researchers picked female homicide rates as an indicator for patriarchy because the overwhelming evidence from across the world suggests that women are the victims of sexual and domestic violence perpetrated by men.
Scott-Samuel said several other indicators could also reveal the degree of patriarchy. Some of these are the proportion of women in legislature, the rates of domestic violence, and the proportion of women in employment.
The Liverpool analysis covered 51 countries in the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe, but India was not included. Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Maldives were among Asian countries covered by the study that also investigated patriarchy-male mortality links in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Estonia, Germany, Poland, Russia, the UK and the US.
“We wanted to include India, but could not do so because of lack of reliable data on female homicide rates and age-standardised male death rates,” said Scott-Samuel.
However, given the wide range of countries representing diverse cultural backgrounds and economic differences covered by the study, the researchers believe that its findings would apply to India and other countries for which data was not available. “I hope my colleagues in India to undertake similar studies,” Scott-Samuel said.
Indian activists, who have long championed women’s causes, said any fresh arguments to intensify the campaign against male domination of women would be welcome.
“The study might add a reason to eliminate patriarchy, but the core effect of patriarchy is the high toll that it takes on women’s health and lives,” said Brinda Karat, former general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.