Karnataka scores lowest in spousal equality: National Family Health Survey | Bengaluru News – Times of India


BENGALURU: Karnataka’s score on spousal egalitarianism is the lowest in the country with only 30% of the men affirming that a wife should have an equal or greater say than her husband in taking major decisions concerning their family, according to the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) for 2019-21.
Karnataka’s score is way lower than the national average of 57%. Chandigarh tops the spousal-equality chart with 82% men believing their partners must have an equal say in family matters. The survey asked men in the 15-49 age group that who – husband, wife or both – should have a greater say in each of the following decisions: Major household purchases; purchases for daily household needs; visits to wife’s family or relatives; what to do with the money the wife earns; and how many children to have.

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Be it home or the workplace, gender equality has always been a far cry with women being pushed into roles of primary caregivers and unpaid housekeepers, and essentially labelled the weaker sex. The NFHS survey only shows the deeply entrenched patriarchy that women, across social hierarchies, encounter ever so often. Being termed ‘better half’ is no good, unless the wife has an equal say in matters that matter. While mindsets are slowly changing — lockdowns showed even men can and should don the domestic hat — a discernible shift will happen only through gender-neutral parenting. What boys assimilate in their formative years will define the kind of men they will become.

The percentage of men who agree that a wife should have an equal or greater say in all the five specified decisions has decreased nationally in the four years since NFHS-4 — from 59% to 57%.
Patriarchy constantly reinforced: Lawyer
Experts said though Karnataka is seen as socially progressive, the survey numbers betray a lack of empowerment of women.
Sumathi DG, a child and women’s rights activist for over 25 years, said there is a direct correlation between incidents of domestic violence and men’s attitude towards keeping women out of domestic decisions. “A woman might be a gold-medal wi nner or a successful professional, but I have seen them giving away their financial autonomy to the husband or male family members,” she said.
She said a family must achieve consensus through discussions an d this must be the norm. “Any change must come from the men and fam-
ilies in the way they raise girls. “A father must be a role model who treats his wife on equal terms. This is for then ext generation to learn and know what to expect from the spouse,” she added.
Maitreyi Krishnan, from All India Lawyers’ Association for Justice, blames the skewed development on co n- stant reinforcement of inequality and patriarchal structure, even by state representatives. “They have repeatedly pushed the stereotype that a woman’s p lace is in the kitchen and a woman is always portrayed as a wife, mother or sister, not as an independent person.”
Institute for Social and Ec- onomic Change (ISEC) director Prof D Rajasekhar s aid the trend is obvious from domesti c to public roles. “We’ve cases of husbands playing proxy elected representatives as they claim women cannot handle high-pressure work,” he said. Some time ago, he, along with other ISEC members, had tried to meet a woman panchayat sarpanch for a study. Her husband — a proxy representative — did not allow the team to meet her. “That’s the kind of control they wield in some cases,” he said.
He said self-help groups have helped in empowering women in different ways — at individual, household and community levels. “Real empowerment begins when m en realise the importance of women’s role,” he added.

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Sagar Biswas

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