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The 'norm' in wife-beating

Don't be shocked or even surprised at UNICEF's 'Global Report Card on Adolescents 2012' which says that 57% of adolescent boys in India think a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife. Also note that over half of the Indian adolescent girls surveyed, or around 53% think that a husband is justified in beating his wife.

To not be shocked you have to understand there's both normative beliefs and subjective norms at play that dictate attitudes, thus behaviour. Normative belief is an individual's perception about a particular behavior, which is influenced by the judgment of significant others (e.g., parents, spouse, friends, teachers). A subjective norm is an individual's perception of social normative pressures, or relevant others' beliefs that he or she should or should not perform such behavior.

Now consider what plays out as domestic violence almost on a daily basis in Indian families. Research on 'wife beating' suggests that while data on domestic violence against women is limited, two recent studies in India suggest its widespread prevalence. One study, conducted among women and men in Jullunder district, Punjab in north India reports that about 75 per cent of scheduled caste women reported being beaten frequently by their husbands; and likewise, about 75 per cent men reported beating their wives. Another research study showed that up to 45% of married men acknowledged physically abusing their wives (1996 survey of 6,902 men in the state of Uttar Pradesh). The point is, the beatings that happen almost day after day bring along a certain legitimacy that turns such attrocities into accepted norms, and more so because they are perpetrated by the 'head' of the family, the father. What also aids such norm formation is the witnesser's impressionable young age. At an aggregate level when this plays out across the board, there's a collective buy in that puts a social norm into place.

Consumer socialisation of children pretty much runs on the same lines. This is socialisation that sees adoption of consumer practices by children based on consumption witnessed at home. The child takes to a particular brand of coffee when he's old enough because that's what's drunk at home. Of course choices may alter over a period of time, but some purchase habits remain forever.

To get adolescent boys and girls in India to see wife beating as reprehensible requires that fathers first stop beating mothers. It also requires that fathers dissapprove of the usage of violence as a tool. More than anything else it requires that fathers love mothers, and that such love be practiced visibly when the children are around.


Anonymous said…

Just out of curiosity what is your stand on 'Satyameva jayate' ??

They are most definetly talking about sensitive issues but my question is whether they can keep up the interest of the people or will it wash away like the Anna hazzare craze or will it actually make an impact?
I don have an issue if Aamir Khan has made this show to get some lime light. I would say smart chap as long as it actually does bring about some positive changes in society.

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