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State of women in GB: Most women accept wife-beating if woman neglects children

By Tariq Butt
November 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Seventy-eight percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife for any one of the five reasons listed in a survey. The report of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), monitoring the situation of children and women in GB, has now been released. Research for the survey was carried out in 2016-17 by the GB Planning & Development Department in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Respondents were asked about the following reasons for husbands perpetrating violence against their wives: if the woman goes out without telling the husband, neglects the children, argues with her husband, refuses sex with him and burns the food.

According to the survey, the highest proportion of women justify a husband’s violence when a wife neglects her children (63%). Other activity that is disapproved of is when a woman demonstrates her autonomy, exemplified by going out without telling her husband (58%) or arguing with him (57%). Over half of the women (51%) believe that wife-beating is justified if the wife refuses to have sex with the husband and 37pc approves of wife-beating if she burns the food.

Wife-beating in any of these situations is justified by a higher proportion of women living in the poorest households, in the rural areas and with less education. By district, the proportion of women who approve of wife-beating is highest in Ghanche district (93%) and the lowest in Gilgit district (59%).

According to MICS, the purpose of asking these questions on this subject was to capture the social justification for violence and disciplinary action when a woman does not comply with certain expected gender roles in areas where women have a lower status in society.

The MICS study also shows that only 11 percent of women in GB read a newspaper or magazine and 7pc listen to the radio. However, 51pc watch television at least once a week. Overall, 45pc do not have regular exposure to any of the three types of media, while 55pc are exposed to at least one and 2pc to all three on a weekly basis.

Among divisions, exposure to all media was highest in Gilgit division (72%) and lowest in Diamer (18%). By district, only one in 10 women is exposed to any kind of media in Diamer district while the figure jumps to eight in ten in Hunza district. Women in households in the wealthiest quintile are most likely to be exposed to any type of media (80%). Strong differentials by area of residence and women’s education are also observed for exposure to any media at least once a week. Seventy percent of urban women are exposed to any media compared to 52pc of rural women. Women with higher education are more likely to be exposed to all the three types of media than women with primary education. Exposure to all three types of media is also higher among women from wealthier households and from the urban areas.

The survey shows that both computer and internet use during the previous 12 months was more widespread among women and girls between the ages of 15 and 19. The proportion of women using a computer during the last year was lowest (4%) in Diamer division and highest (36%) in Gilgit division. There was a huge variation among districts -- the proportion of women using a computer varies from 2pc in Diamer district to 78pc in Hunza district. The use of a computer and internet is also strongly associated with the area of residence, women’s education and wealth status of the household.

Only 1pc of women aged 15-24 years with primary education reported using a computer during the previous year, while about half (47%) of the women with higher education used a computer. Similarly, higher utilization of the internet is observed among the women in urban areas (23%) compared to women in rural areas (7%). The proportion is higher (28%) for women living in richest households compared to less than 1 percent for women living in the poorest households.

Thirteen percent of women aged between 15 and 49 years were married before the age of 15. Among women aged between 20 and 49 years, 43pc were married before the age of 18. Over one in ten young women (13%) aged between 15 and 19 are currently married. This proportion is strongly related to the level of women's education. Among all currently married women of age 15-49 years, 4pc are in polygamous marriage.

Examining the percentage of women married before age 15 and 18 years by different age groups allows for trends to be observed in early marriage over time. The prevalence of marriage by age 15 and 18 has gradually declined over time: 62pc of women aged 45-49 years were first married by age 18 compared to 27pc of women aged 20-24 years.