Indian men lead in sexual violence, worst on gender equality: Study


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NEW DELHI: Nearly one in four Indian men has committed sexual violence at some point in their lives and one in five has admittedly forced his wife or partner to have sex. The findings of a recent International Men and Gender Equality Survey reflects a new low for Indian men. Only 2% Brazilian males and less than 9% of men in Chile, Croatia, Mexico and Rwanda were found to have indulged in sexual violence.

 

The survey was conducted in six developing countries across four continents to map attitudes and practices related to gender equality. Researchers from the International Centre for Research on Women ( ICRW in US and India) and Instituto Promundo in Brazil, who led the survey, interviewed more than 8,000 men and 3,500 women, aged 18 to 59, from these countries.

 

Indians, who are known to excel in competitive examinations globally, were ranked last on the ’gender equitable men’ scale, given that only 17% of men here qualified to the ’highly equitable’ (gender-just) category. The percentage was the lowest for this category among the six countries. On sexual violence, 24% said they had committed some form of it in their lives.

 

While Croatia topped the test, with 82% ’gender-just’ men, more than 50% men in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico made the grade. Rwanda, which is among the least developed nations in the world, in fact, fared better than India, with 30% males qualifying as ’highly equitable’.

 

Rwanda, however, joined Indiawith highest rate of domestic violence, with 38% men admitting they had physically abused their partners. Worse, more than 65% Indian men also believed that women should tolerate violence to keep the family together and that women sometimes deserved to be beaten.

 

And although Indian men were the most sexually and physically violent at home, they were not involved in violent or criminal behaviour outside. Only 4% Indian men had participated in robbery and 7% had been involved in fights with weapons, compared to 36% men in Croatia and 22% men in Brazil.

 

The findings, released in Washington last month, reiterated that although India may be on its way to becoming the world’s fastest developing economy, it figures at the bottom of the pile when it comes to gender equality. "Indian men are far more traditional, to put it mildly. Even young, educated men are not changing as rapidly as women. They are still living in the old ages," said Ravi Verma, director of ICRW’s Asia regional office in Delhi.

 

Verma added that they would soon present the survey findings to the ministry of women and child development and other policy-makers to urge them to make appropriate changes in policies and programmes to better foster gender equality.

In the survey, which found Indian men to be the worst offenders in terms of sexual violence, more than 1,000 men from the 1,500 interviewed in India were from Delhi. The findings mirrored the high incidence of sexual assault in Delhi: the capital witnessed 489 rapes last year.

 

"Although the survey has focussed on violence in the privacy of homes, it reflects the situation in public places, too," said Kalpana Vishwanath, project director of the Gender Inclusive Cities project run by Jagori NGO. South Asia does fare quite poorly in terms of gender equality.

 

Vibhuti Patel, a women’s rights activist, blamed the repression of sexuality in India for the high rate of sexual violence. "All the other countries surveyed have more sexual freedom than India. Rwanda, too, has tribal culture so people are more open and women’s role in the economy is recognized," said Patel, who heads the economics department at Mumbai’s SNDT University.

 

"In India, the age-old code of conduct has been to keep men and women separate. So women are only viewed as sex objects," she added.

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