Monday, 30th October 2017

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Kashmir wives hand men freedom, to beat

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  • Published 28.12.09
Women watch a Muharram procession in Srinagar

Srinagar, Dec. 27: Kashmiri men might grumble about their diminished civil liberties, but they are more “free” than most other countrymen when it comes to beating their wives.

An exceedingly high 64 per cent of women in Jammu and Kashmir believe it is justified for a husband to beat his wife, according to a study conducted by the National Family Health Survey. The figure is 10 percentage points higher than the national average of 54 per cent.

The countrywide findings of the survey were released in 2007, but the Union ministry of health and family welfare, which is behind the research, followed it up with state-specific results. The findings for Jammu and Kashmir were released this year.

The survey reveals that 51 per cent of Kashmir’s women say wife beating is justified if she shows disrespect to in-laws; 50 per cent approve of it if the wife neglects the house or children and 48 per cent have no problem with domestic violence in case the husband suspects the wife’s character.

Sociologists say women’s acceptance of wife beating in India is associated with socio-economic characteristics, such as low literacy, an indication of her acceptance of “lower status” vis-à-vis her spouse and the perceived notion that husbands are the master of the households.

Educationist AG Madhosh said several factors may have contributed to the findings. “You can only generalise in the absence of any knowledge about the sample chosen by the researchers. The most important factor could be insecurity among Muslim women in Kashmir, which is probably higher. In the West you have a concept of career girls who can live as singles, but even a highly professional girl has no option but to marry in a society like ours,” said Madhosh.

“Illiteracy and poverty too are factors and equally important is the cultural conditioning of our women who think wife beating could be a corrective measure. There may be some success stories and they draw lessons from that,” he added.

Jammu and Kashmir had a literacy of 55.5 per cent according to the 2001 census, with men leading with 66 per cent and women following with 42 per cent. The national rate in the census year was 65.38 per cent — 75 per cent among men and 54 per cent among women.

The overall literacy has jumped to 65.67 per cent in 2009 with female literacy rate at 57 per cent, as per a survey of the state government’s economic and statistics department.

The family health survey had taken a sample size of 2,415 households across Jammu and Kashmir. A total of 3,281 women in the age group of 15 to 49 years and 1,076 men in the age group of 15-54 were interviewed for the study.

The report has thrown up some startling facts on domestic violence, women’s empowerment and gender role attitudes. Men in Jammu and Kashmir, says the report, are more likely than women to agree with wife beating.

“Two thirds of men justify wife beating in some circumstances. About half of them say that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she disrespects her in-laws and if he suspects she is unfaithful,” says the study.

Fifty one per cent men justify wife beating at the national level.

At the same time though, more men (71 per cent) than women (54 per cent) believe a woman is justified in refusing to have sex with her husband if she knows that he has sexually transmitted diseases, if he has had intercourse with other women or if she is tired or not in a proper mood.

Kashmir can draw solace in that the percentage of men actually beating women is among the lowest in the country.

Just 13 per cent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence, including 15 per cent of those married.

The only state where spousal violence is lower than Jammu and Kashmir is Himachal Pradesh at eight per cent. The countrywide figures of spousal violence is a staggering 37 per cent.