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TV-savvy rural India is okay with wife beating

According to countrywide survey, over half of the country’s women feel wife-beating is justifiable, reports Sanchita Sharma.
Hindustan Times | By Sanchita Sharma, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 12, 2007 01:56 AM IST

There are more television sets than taps in India’s village homes. And like the characters in the soaps they watch on TV every day, most women in the country are victims of domestic violence.

What’s surprising is that a majority of them think the beatings are justified.

These are just some of the findings of the National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3), the country’s largest survey to provide information on population, health and nutrition from 29 states.

The report goes on to say that though only 35 per cent men and 22 per cent women complete 10 years of education, exposure to the media — newspapers, television, radio — is high at 65 per cent for women and 80 per cent for men.

Nearly two in five (37 per cent) married women have experienced physical and sexual violence at the hands of their husbands. And over half of the country’s women, 54 per cent, feel wife-beating is justifiable, with 41 per cent saying that showing disrespect to one’s in-laws is grounds enough for a beating.

As for the men, 35 per cent feel neglecting the house or children are less grounds for a beating. Fewer men, 51 per cent, than women said wife beating was justified.

Almost half – 46 per cent — of women aged 18-29 years got married before the legal minimum age of 18 years, with the median age of marriage for women in the country 17.2 years, compared to 23.4 for men.

Sixteen percent women below 19 have already begun childbearing. As a result of early marriage, women become sexually active at a lower age, with 8 per cent girls having had intercourse before the age of 15 years as compared to 3 per cent men.

Sex education

Over two-thirds parents favour their children being taught about sex and sexual behaviour, bodily changes during puberty, condom use, HIV/AIDS, contraception, and oral values, the survey says.

Teaching girls about contraception finds less support in women, with 49 per cent women supporting it as compared to 65 per cent men. Fewer think that men should know about it – 42 per cent women and 64 per cent men.

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