Conservative socio-religious atmosphere behind lower participation of Gujarat women in activities other than domestic duties

women ruralBy Rajiv Shah*

A new National Sample  Survey Organisation (NSSO’s) report, “Participation of Women in Specified Activities along with Domestic Duties”, finalized in September 2014, has revealed that a higher percentage of Gujarat women are driven by the conservative socio-religious framework of their families and society compared to most Indian states. Based on the survey it carried out between July 2011 and June 2012, the NSSO report has found that, in the 15+ age, 91.9 per cent of Gujarat’s rural and 94.4 per cent of urban women spend most of the time in domestic duties, which is around the same as the national average of 91.7 and 92.2 per cent, respectively. However, this does not tell the full story.

Of these women identified as being involved domestic duty full time in Gujarat, 54.8 per cent in rural areas and 62.5 per cent in urban areas said they were doing it because there is no other member to carry out the domestic duties. And – and this is worrisome – 18.7 per cent of rural women and 14.6 per cent in urban women said they are doing their domestic duties full time “because of socio-religious constraints.”

What should be even a matter of higher concern for policy makers and activists alike is, the percentage of women citing socio-religious constraints as the reason for spending most of the time in domestic duty is much higher in Gujarat than most major states. An inter-state comparison suggests that a much lower percentage of rural women from 15 out of 20 major states are “constrained” to do domestic duties due to socio-religious constraints. The NSSO does not find the situation in urban areas any different: A much lower percentage of women from 14 out of 20 major states felt “constrained” by socio-religious considerations while doing their domestic work.

Remarkably, just about 3 per cent of rural women in Uttarakhand — followed by 3.8 per cent in Tamil Nadu, 4.6 per cent in Kerala, 5 per cent in Himachal Pradesh, 6.8 per cent in Karnataka, and 7.6 per cent in West Bengal – cited “socio-religious constraint” as the reason full-time involvement in domestic duties. This is against Gujarat’s 18.7 per cent, Haryana’s 18.9 per cent, Odisha’s 19.4 per cent, Punjab’s 28.1 per cent and Uttar Pradesh’s 28.8 per cent rural women citing the same constraint.

women urbanThings are not very different for urban women, either. As against Gujarat 14.6 per cent urban women who said socio-religious constraints are the main reason for doing domestic duty full time, the respective percentage for Kerala is 4.3 per cent, Jammu & Kashmir 5.7 per cent, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh 5.9 per cent each, Uttarakhand 6.9 per cent, and Andhra Pradesh 9.9 per cent. States with higher percentage of urban women than Gujarat citing socio-religious constraint as the main reason for domestic work are just four – Uttar Pradesh 29.9 per cent, Punjab 18.2 per cent, Rajasthan 16.9 per cent and Bihar 15.2 per cent.

A conservative atmosphere would naturally not allow women to do full-time job, either. Thus, Gujarat’s only 16.4 per cent of rural women told the NSSO surveyors that they are willing to accept full-time work — even within the household premises. This is lower than most Indian states except three (Punjab 13.5 per cent, Jammu & Kashmir 14.5 per cent, and Uttar Pradesh 16 per cent). As for the urban areas, Gujarat’s only 23.7 per cent of urban women said they were willing to accept full time work within household premises, which is lower than 12 out of 20 major Indian states.

Coming to the type of domestic work, apart from the routine work, the NSSO report shows, 48.7 per cent of Gujarat’s rural women are involved in “free collection of wood”, 34.4 per cent in the “preparing cow dung cakes”, and 19.3 per cent in bringing water from outside household premises. Only just 4.6 per cent of women are involved in teaching their children. As for the urban areas, apart from the domestic work, 12.6 per cent of women spend time in tailoring and 10.8 per cent in teaching their children.

*Senior journliast, editor@counterview.net

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