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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 81-86

Attitude towards women empowerment among husbands of eligible couples in a rural area of Hooghly district, West Bengal


Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Date of Web Publication27-Nov-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Bijit Biswas
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, 110, Chittaranjan Avenue, Kolkata - 700 073, West Bengal
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mjmsr.mjmsr_11_18

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  Abstract 


Background: Empowerment is an important determinant of women's health. The most important social factor of women empowerment is her partner's perception toward it. The attitude of men toward women empowerment is one of the major public health and human rights issues in the world today. With this background, the current study was designed to explore the attitude toward women empowerment among husbands of eligible couples. Materials and Methods: It was a community-based observational study, cross-sectional in design conducted from March to June 2016, carried out in a rural area of Hooghly district, West Bengal among 125 husbands of eligible couples. Data were analyzed using IBM statistical package for social sciences, SPSS statistical software program (version 16) by appropriate statistical methods. Results: Among husbands of eligible couples, favorable attitude toward women empowerment was found to be 20%. In univariate logistic regression, husbands age (odds ratio, (OR)-2.9 [1.1–7.4]), educational status (OR-3.2 [1.1–9.4]), wives age (OR-2.9 [1.1–7.4]), type of family (OR-3.3 [1.1–9.4]), and religion (OR-7.3 [2.8–19.1]) were significant predictors of husbands attitude toward women empowerment. In the final multivariable logistic regression model, husband education (adjusted OR, AOR-3.3 [1.1–9.6]) and religion (AOR-4.7 [1.5–14.5]) were significant predictors of husbands attitude toward women empowerment adjusted with husbands age with (predictive accuracy rate) PAR of 81.6%. Conclusion: Favorable attitude toward women empowerment was quite low. Husbands educational status and religion were some key predictors of women empowerment. Awareness generation campaigns with the involvement of religious leaders to improve attitude toward women empowerment, especially in reluctant religious pockets, should be organized.

Keywords: Eligible couples, husbands, religion, women empowerment


How to cite this article:
Mallick N, Biswas B, Dasgupta A, Paul B, Garg S. Attitude towards women empowerment among husbands of eligible couples in a rural area of Hooghly district, West Bengal. Muller J Med Sci Res 2018;9:81-6

How to cite this URL:
Mallick N, Biswas B, Dasgupta A, Paul B, Garg S. Attitude towards women empowerment among husbands of eligible couples in a rural area of Hooghly district, West Bengal. Muller J Med Sci Res [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Dec 11];9:81-6. Available from: http://www.mjmsr.net/text.asp?2018/9/2/81/246159




  Introduction Top


Women's empowerment is “a process whereby women become able to organize themselves to increase their self-reliance, to assert their independent right to make choices and to control resources which will assist in challenging and eliminating their subordination.”[1]

The empowerment of women occurs when they can take not only their own decision in respect to mobility, economic security but also in household affairs, sexual relationship, contraception, contribution to family support, which in turn lead to their better access to resources.[1],[2] The economic growth of the country depends both on men and women workforce.[3] Empowerment and gender equality have importance implication toward socio-economic development and health of the entire nation, not only just individual families. In a developed country, the percentage of working women is nearly equal to working men. In rural West Bengal, the situation is not the same as developing countries as the proportion of working women is low (22.3%), and there is a substantial burden of early marriage (46.3%) and teenage pregnancy (20.6%)[4] which increases need of studies exploring attributes of women empowerment.

Meanwhile, empowering women and gender equality are also one of the sustainable development goals (SDG)[2] and crucial for poverty alleviation, which in turn helps in growth and development of a country.[5],[6],[7]

The attitude of men toward women empowerment is one of the major public health and human rights issue in the world today. In rural Indian set up, a husbands' attitude toward women empowerment plays a major role toward his women family members activities and roles in the family and community. A favorable attitude of the husband helps the women to take a step forwards toward empowerment status. With this background, the study was planned to explore the attitude toward women empowerment among husbands of eligible couples.


  Materials and Methods Top


It was a community-based observational study, cross-sectional in design, conducted from March to June 2016, among husbands of eligible couples in Singur, Hooghly, West Bengal, with a structured schedule. Singur is a rural field practice area of All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIH and PH), Kolkata. As one of the independent explanatory variables was religion, Rasulpur village with a population consisting of an optimum mix of Hindus and Muslims was chosen conveniently out of 64 villages of field practice area. There were total 249 eligible couples in the village out of which 188 were Muslim, and 61 were Hindus.

At first line listing of the eligible couples were done with the help of eligible couple and child register of the village. Then, a stratified random sample of 50% (94) from the Muslim couples and 50% (31) of Hindu couples were included in the study. In total, 125 male partners of the eligible couples participated in the study. Persons who refused to participate were excluded from the study. A pretested, structured, schedule was adopted from C-change scale,[8] and questionnaires from NFHS-3, NFHS-4, and other studies[4],[9],[10],[11] was modified according to the local context and the objectives of the study in consultation with experts of AIIH and PH, Kolkata. This tool was translated into the language (Bengali) with the help of experts and pretested in 31 husbands of eligible couples in an adjacent village to test for ease of use, relevance, and understanding. It was revised based on the responses obtained in pretesting and finalized for use in this study. The final schedule consisted of the background information of the study subjects (age, education, and occupation of husband and wife, religion, type of family, family income, and per capita income) and husbands attitude toward women empowerment related questionnaire. There were in total 19 attitude-related questions related to women empowerment covering five domains namely: (i) women's mobility, (ii) household's affair, (iii) women's economic security and contribution to family support, (iv) sexual relationship and contraception, and (v) violence.

Data were collected by the house-to-house visit and face-to-face interview method. Informed written consent was obtained from the study subjects after explaining the study objectives and procedures and also assured their right to refuse to participate in the study anytime they want. The study participants were thanked at the end of data collection for their participation in the study.

Some operational definitions used in the study were as following:

Socio-economic status

It was assessed as per modified B. G Prasad scale 2016.[12]

Attitude toward empowerment score

All husbands' attitude-related questions of women empowerment were given the same weightage. For each positive attitude “3,” and for negative attitude “0,” and for opting “uncertain” option, “1” score was given. As there were total 19 questions, the maximum attainable score was 57, and the minimum attainable score was 0 where increased in attitude score indicated a more favorable attitude toward women empowerment.

Favorable attitude to empowerment

For the analysis purpose, those who scored ≥75 percentile of the attained attitude score was considered as having a favorable attitude toward women empowerment.

Statistical analysis

Data were analyzed using the IBM statistical package for social sciences, SPSS statistical software program (version 16) (Chicago, USA). Mann-Whitney U test was performed to measure the effect of study subject's religion on different domains of attitude score. Univariate logistic regression to ascertain the relationship of various attributes with favorable attitude to empowerment score followed by multivariable logistic regression. Forward LR method was used to choose variables among significant variables in univariate analysis for the multivariable logistic regression model. The strength of associations was assessed by odds ratio at 95% confidence interval statistical significance for all analyses was set at P < 0.05.

Ethical considerations

The study was conducted after taking ethical approval from the Institutional Ethics Committee of AIIH and PH, Kolkata.


  Results Top


The mean age of the study participant was 39.3 years with most belonged to age group of 41–50 years (36.0%). While, the mean age of their wives was 32.1 years with one-third (36.0%) belonging to age group of 31–40 years. Majority of the study participants belonged to Muslim community (75.2%), joint family (60.0%), and socioeconomic class IV (43.2%). The illiteracy rate among husbands and their wives were 38.4% and 30.4%), respectively, with the majority of wives being homemakers (92.0%) [Table 1].
Table 1: Background characteristics of the study participants (n=125)

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[Table 2] shows responses of the study participants to the attitude questionnaire.
Table 2: Distribution of participants according to their attitude towards women empowerment (n=125)

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Favorable attitude toward women empowerment among husbands of eligible couples was 20.0% as a whole and for Muslim and Hindu couples were 15.8% and 32.2%, respectively [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Proportion of husbands of eligible couples with a favourable attitude towards women empowerment: n=125

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In Mann-Whitney U test, attitude toward women empowerment was significantly more favorable among the Hindu partners than the Muslims in all the domains of women empowerment except decision regarding household's affair [Table 3].
Table 3: Difference in the attitude of study participants towards women empowerment according to religion (n=125)

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In final multivariable logistic regression, husband education (AOR-3.3 [1.1–9.6]) and religion (AOR-4.7 [1.5–14.5]) were significant predictors of husbands' attitude toward women empowerment adjusted with husbands' age. Wife's age and type of family, despite being significant in univariate analysis, were not included in the final model due to their noninclusion using forward LR method for multivariable logistic regression analysis. Independent variables in the model were explaining 27.0% variability of outcome variable with a predictive accuracy rate of 81.6%, whereas a nonsignificant Hosmer Lemeshow P = 0.117 indicated model fit [Table 4].
Table 4: Univariate and multivariable logistic regression for predictors of favourable attitude towards women empowerment (n=125)

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  Discussion Top


Although women empowerment and gender equality are one of the key SDGs,[2] in the present study, favorable attitude toward women empowerment was only 20% among husbands of eligible couples. A study by Murthy and Chandrasekarayya[13] on eligible couples found that around 40 percent of the husbands were having positive perceptions toward empowerment of women. This difference may be due to the influence of religion on women empowerment since in the present study large number of study participants were Muslims and their perception of women empowerment was unfavorable compared to Hindus.

In the present study, 93.6% study participants agree that “a wife should tolerate violence to keep her family together” which was more compared to a study done in urban slums of West Bengal (40.3%).[11] Almost all of the study participants (98.4%) had issues with a wives freedom of visit to her parent's place which was similar to the findings of Pal et al.(78.46%) conducted in slum settings.[10] The difference in findings may be attributed to different study settings. Only 23.2% and 44% of the study participants agreed to the fact that a wife should be allowed to go to the market for shopping and to visit a hospital/clinic/doctor all on her own, respectively, whereas, in NFHS-3, the above proportions were reported to be 51.5% and 47.7%, respectively in India.[9]

Despite India's domestic violence law 2005,[14] 16% of husbands opined that it is justified to beat one's wife while 9.6% of the study participants said that a husband had the right to hit his wife if she refused to have sex with him. The above findings were quite low compared to NFHS-4 data which had reported the prevalence of physical violence among rural West Bengal women is as high as 36.9%.[4] This difference in findings may be due to variation in the study population concerning age, religion, caste, educational status, etc., as all these presented factors may influence domestic violence as suggested by various prior evidence in this regard.[15],[16],[17] Meanwhile, the study population in our study belonged to a particular village, contrasting this NFHS 4 had a wider sampling frame, so there may be chances of geographical variations which may have influenced our results. The other possible explanation could be, as some question of violence were sensitive, so the participants in the present study might not have openly answered to those questions resulting in such variation in the findings.

In strengths, the study was conducted among Muslim majority rural community, where it is a well-known fact that Muslim men have an unfavorable attitude toward women empowerment.[18],[19],[20],[21] Higher levels of societal discrimination, mobility restriction, and violence against women in such communities along with the poor participation of women in family planning decisions which further deteriorates women empowerment.[22]

As per the 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, through one-third of the reservation of women in Panchayati Raj institutions, women are more likely to be more involved in the political system and suppose to increase her decision-making power at family and community level.[23] Despite that in the current study, we found a different picture altogether which reflects only legislative measures would not be enough to curb this problem. It will require political commitment, the involvement of all the stakeholders (i.e., religious leaders) if we at all want to achieve SDG related to women empowerment and gender equity.


  Conclusion Top


In the present study, favorable attitude toward women empowerment was quite low compared to prior information available in this regard. Husbands' educational status and religion were some key predictors of attitude toward women empowerment. Awareness generation campaigns to improve attitude toward women empowerment should be organized. Religious leaders should be included in the awareness campaign to improve the accessibility of the reluctant religious pockets.

Acknowledgment

The authors want to express their gratitude toward all the study participants for their participation and cooperation during the study.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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