A fresh study, based on survey of men and women in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, “Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference”, identifies attitudes of different category men which may impede or facilitate gender equality. Sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP), and carried out by the International Center for Research on Women, the study says, “While men are commonly seen as perpetrators of violence, the study attempts to grasp how violence is at times considered integral to the gendered definition of masculinity.” Excerpts from the chapter “Intimate Partner Violence and Masculinity”:
Across the world, women through their lifetime experience the highest violence from a spouse or intimate male partner. Intimate partner violence (IPV), now well recognized as a human rights violation globally, includes acts of physical aggression, psychological abuse, forced intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion, and various controlling behaviours such as isolating a person from family and friends or restricting access to information and assistance. Such violence is largely perpetrated and reinforced by socially prescribed gender norms. Gender norms often create rules so that the distribution of power between men and women is unequal and in favour of men. IPV is often used as a means of sustaining this imbalance in power and maintaining dominance of men.
In the study, both men and women who have or ever had a spouse/partner were asked a series of questions to assess the prevalence of intimate partner violence. The questions covered acts of emotional violence (five questions), economic violence (three questions), physical violence (five questions) and sexual violence (four questions). Men were asked “have you ever….” and women were asked “has a current or previous husband or partner ever….” in their own contexts. The sample of men and women were independent and not related to each other. For the analysis, responses to each item were combined to create a composite index for each type of violence.
At the aggregate level, more than half of the women (52%) reported experiencing any form of violence during their lifetime and every three in five men (60%) reported perpetrating any form of intimate partner violence against their wife/partner ever. Among the various forms of violence, emotional violence was most prevalent, with 41% of men reporting using it and 35% women reporting experiencing it. Following emotional violence was physical violence, with 38% of the women reporting experiencing it and 33% men reporting perpetrating such violence.
A higher proportion of women reported experiencing physical violence (38%) followed by emotional violence (35%) as compared to other forms like sexual violence (17%) and economic (16%). Interestingly, among men and women, except for physical and economic violence, men’s reported perpetration of all other kinds of violence was higher than women’s reported experience of violence. This may be due to stigma associated with the experience of sexual violence for women, which may be the reason that their reported experience is lower than men’s experience of perpetrating it.
Men who are more educated are less likely to perpetrate violence and the difference is particularly stark with the completion of schooling. Among men, the effect of education is significant where their perpetration of any form of violence in past 12 months decreases as their education increases beyond secondary schooling. Moreover, older men are also less likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence although the difference is not as high as with men who are educated. Men, who are over 34 years of age, are less likely to perpetrate violence than younger men. There is a significant difference among men in the age group 18-24, 37% perpetrated violence compared to men in the older age group of 35-49 where 31% report perpetrated violence.
Prevalence of any form of violence reported by men of different caste and religion shows a significant association. Nearly two-fifths (40%) of men belonging to scheduled castes and 35% of scheduled castes and other backward classes men reported perpetrating any form of violence in past 12 months compared to 28% amongst men from the general caste. Among Hindu men, 35% reported perpetration of any form of violence in the past 12 months was similar across the two major religions and lower for the others. Men living in rural areas reported higher prevalence of violence in past 12 months in comparison to men living in urban areas.
The socio-economic status of men reveals that men belonging to the poorer wealth strata are more likely to report perpetrating violence than those men in higher strata. More than two-fifths of men (42%) belonging to poorest wealth class reported perpetrating violence in the past 12 months, whereas only a fourth of men amongst a higher strata of wealth reported doing so. As the socio-economic status improves the perpetration of any form of violence reported by men in past 12 months decreases. This may be because economic stress is a trigger for perpetration of violence and therefore men at higher income levels may be less likely to enact intimate partner violence.
Younger and less educated women are more likely to be vulnerable to intimate partner violence due to their lack of agency and ability to negotiate conflict or stress with their spouse/partners. Increasing levels of education, women’s experiences of IPV or any form of violence in the past 12 months decreases. Among women, 41% of illiterate women reported experiencing any form of violence in the past 12 months compared to 13% of women who had at least a graduation. Among women, 39% belonging to scheduled tribes reported experiencing any form of violence in the past 12 months, compared to 12% of women in the general caste.
Economic stress, joblessness and insecurity are often seen as causal factors in men’s perpetuation of IPV. This is closely linked with norms of masculinity and the expectation that men are economic providers for their households, even in situations where women work. Nearly two-fifths (40%) of men who had economic stress reported perpetrating any form of violence in the past 12 months compared to 27% amongst men who did not have any economic stress. In addition, if the man’s spouse or partner had a higher income, we found that a higher proportion of those men perpetrated violence.
Violence and discrimination may be construed as normal if a child observes or experiences this during his or her formative years. Boys internalize this as an acceptable behavior to express dissatisfaction, stress or disapproval. In this study, among men who have experienced discrimination/harassment often during their childhood, 44% reported perpetrating violence in past 12 months, compared to 14% amongst men who did not experience any discrimination. The questions to assess discrimination addressed a range of issues from beating, sexual abuse and bullying to observing violence between their parents (father being violent to their mothers).
Among women who reported experiencing any kind of discrimination/harassment during their childhood, two-fifths (40%) of them reported experiencing any form of violence in the past 12 months, whereas among those who had never experienced any form of discrimination/harassment, less than 10% reported experiencing of any form of violence in the past 12 months. Women who observed or experienced violence during their childhood may later legitimize it as adults. For women, like for men, the relationship is highly significant.
Women who are older (above 35 years of age) and have higher education (above and beyond graduation) were less likely to experience intimate partner violence. Women in urban areas, women who have a higher wealth status and who are in the general caste group were also less likely to experience IPV. Experiencing discrimination in their childhood makes women three to six times more likely to experience IPV than those who did not experience any discrimination growing up.
Women who are greatly controlled by their partners and who have low gender equitable attitudes (the construction of the masculinity indicator for women) were also 1.35 times more likely to experience IPV Interestingly, knowledge about the law on domestic violence (PWDC (Act), 2005) too is protective for women. However those women who think that the law is not appropriate or who are not aware of the law are 1.3 to 1.5 times more likely to experience IPV.