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Wives’ occupation

In terms of the relationship between occupation and abuse, wives who were not working were predicted to have the lowest PP of being abused by their husbands, both emotionally (21.9%) and physically (49.2%), and in respect of emotional abuse, the PP of facing such abuse was significantly lower for non-working wives than it was for working wives irrespective of occupation.

At the other extreme, wives who were in domestic service were predicted to have the highest PP of being abused by their husbands, both emotionally (28.9%) and physically (58.5%). In terms of emotional abuse, the PP of facing such abuse was not significantly higher for wives in domestic service than it was wives in the other occupations (professional, managerial, technical; sales and clerical; agricultural; and manual). However, the PP of facing physical abuse was significantly higher for wives in domestic service compared to wives in the other, except manual, occupations.

Wives who were not working conformed most closely to the notion of the ideal woman or an adarsh bbaratiya nari, referred to earlier and, consequently, fitted best into the fabric of the patriarchal Hindu household. Indeed, according to the Economist (2018, p. 16), “outside a small urban elite, the default position is for women not to work unless there is no other way to make ends meet”. The greater vulnerability to spousal violence of wives in manual occupations or in domestic service possibly mirrors the link between poverty and domestic abuse discussed earlier.

Children and location

Table 4.5 shows that the presence of children significantly increased the PP of emotional and physical abuse, albeit only at the 10% level. For emotional abuse, the presence of children raised the PP of facing such abuse from 23.4% to 24.7% while, for physical abuse, the presence of children raised the PP of facing such abuse from 50.8% to 52.4%. The presence of children reduces the per capita resources of the family and could, through the poverty-violence link, increase the probability of spousal violence (Martin et al., 1999). On the other hand, the link between the presence of children and spousal violence may operate through a relative reluctance of wives with children to have sex, perhaps for reasons of a lack of privacy, compared to their childless counterparts.

In terms of urban-rural location, the predicted likelihood of being both emotionally and physically abused was higher for urban than for rural wives (24.7% vs. 23.6% for emotional abuse and 53.2% vs. 50.7% for physical abuse), but this urban-rural difference was only significant for physical abuse.

Husbands’ drunkenness

The NFHS-4 asked wives how often their husbands were drunk and were prompted to answer never (6% of the estimation sample), sometimes (75% of the estimation sample), or often (19% of the estimation sample). Table 4.5 shows that the predicted likelihood of facing both emotional and physical abuse increased dramatically with the frequency with which husbands got drunk. The predicted likelihoods of wives facing emotional and physical abuse from husbands who were never drunk were, respectively, 17.3% and 39.4%; these increased (significantly) to 20.6% and 49.2% for wives whose husbands were sometimes drunk; and the predicted likelihood of being emotionally and physically abused jumped to, respectively, 37.6% and 64.6% for wives whose husbands were often drunk.

There are at least two channels through which an excessive intake of alcohol leads to domestic violence. First, alcohol directly affects cognitive and physical function, reduces self-control, and makes the non-violent resolution of conflict more unlikely (Room et al., 2005). Second, alcohol increases domestic stress by exacerbating financial difficulties and reducing the welfare of family members (WFIO, 2012). Alcohol, however, does not cause domestic violence but, rather, exacerbates it. Although men who drink heavily have a higher rate of inflicting assault on their wives, the majority of men who are high-level drinkers do not abuse their wives (Strauss and Gelles, 1990), and the majority of physically abusive situations occur in the absence of alcohol (Kantor and Straus, 1987).

Javaid (2015), on the basis of research conducted in the north-east of England through semi-structured interviews with professionals who dealt with domestic violence, argues that alcohol is not the cause of domestic violence, but rather, it offers perpetrators the pretext of identifying themselves not as violent abusers but rather as persons whose drinking leads to behaviour they would not engage in while sober. In policy terms, therefore, it would be a mistake, as Zubretsky and Digirolamo (1996) argue, to seek a solution to domestic violence through the treatment of alcohol addiction. The problem of domestic violence is one of an “exercise of control,” not one of a “loss of control”: alcohol allows the abuser to disguise the former as the latter.

Wives’ attitude to wife-beating

Wives were distinguished by those who did not regarding wife-beating as justified under any circumstance (55% of the estimation sample) and those who thought that it might be justified under some circumstances (45% of the estimation sample).11 Table 4.5 shows that wives who regarded beating as unjustified under any circumstances were predicted to be more likely to suffer emotional and physical abuse than wives who thought that it might be justified under certain circumstances (respectively, 25.2% vs. 22.1% for emotional abuse and 55.7% vs. 46.2% for physical abuse).

Jejeebhoy’s (1998) study of women in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh showed that nearly three out of four women agreed that, under certain circumstances, husbands had the right to beat their wives, a finding reinforced by focus group discussions conducted by her which affirmed the right of husbands to chastise wives who “misbehaved”. Against this background, the results reported here possibly reflect the fact that wives who rebelled against this ethos by not accepting this right of husbands were more likely to “misbehave” by flouting their husbands’ injunctions and, therefore, were more likely to be beaten.

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