Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group
Even as protests, media debates and social media activism continue across India in the aftermath of the Delhi gang-rape case, the grim reality is that a majority of Indian women are not allowed to have any say in the day-to-day affairs. The fairer sex’s voice within family gains more clout only with growing age albeit in close partnership with husbands.
The startling revelations have been made in the 14th issue of the report named “Women and men in India-2012” released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. According to the report, 46.1 per cent of women in 15-19 of age group were not involved in any decision-making within the family as compared to 12.8 percent of women within 40-79 years age bracket. The second least participation in household decision-making was found within women of 20-24 years of age group at 31.1 percent.
The four categories that were compiled to conclude the decision-making share pertaining to household chores were personal healthcare decision, making major household purchases, purchasing daily household needs, and visits to family and relatives based on the results of National Family Health Survey–III (2005-06).
Explaining the societal perspective, Anjali Pawar, president of child right’s NGO ‘Sakhee’ says, “Since their childhood, women in India are made to believe that they are inferior to their male counterparts. A woman starts taking decision only when her children grow up and get married. Young women are believed to be vulnerable so, they are never left alone.”
The report concludes that the participation of married women in household decision-making increases with age but it is usually due to close association with their husbands.
Independent participation of married women was recorded highest only during purchase of daily household needs at 32.4 per cent. Except this particular decision, participation of married women was highly associated and dependent on their husbands.
Involvement of married women along with their husbands was recorded highest during visits to family and relatives at 49.8 percent.
Talking on the investments associated with education, Mamta Sahai, former Child Welfare Committee chairperson, says, “In India we see education only as a source of earning. So, before investing anything on education we keep the bread earner in mind; supposedly that role is only meant to be portrayed by men in the Indian society.”
While the call for a change in approach to the whole issue of gender and women empowerment – from showing greater gender sensitivity to systemic reforms - is welcome, it would be useless unless change begins at the family.
Explaining the family structure prevailing in the Indian society, Professor Arvind Chauhan at the Department of Sociology, Bhopal says, “Suppressing a women and not letting her decide is a deep-rooted evil of our society. Socialization of Indian children teaches them to incarnate their farther as the head of the family and mothers as the support system. This is the reason why since primitive times women are made voiceless.”