Ghunghat still a prominent practice among young Hindu women in India: Survey
Ghunghat has a different social meaning than pardah, the practice of women’s seclusion common in Muslim households
While the Narendra Modi government may want to fight gender inequality by passing the triple talaq bill in the Lok Sabha, a recent study has revealed that Delhi’s 75 per cent of young Hindu women in the group 18-25 practice ghunghat. Based on high profile Social Attitude Research, India (SARI) survey, the study also finds that, in this young age, whopping 98 per cent women in rural Rajasthan, 90 per cent in urban Rajasthan, and 91 per cent in rural Uttar Pradesh, and 90 per cent in urban Uttar Pradesh practice ghunghat.
The SARI survey was carried out in 2016 by the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI), University of Pennsylvania. Its results have been published in November 2017 as a paper by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE), “Explicit prejudice: Evidence from a new survey”, authored by Diane Coffey, Payal Hathi, Nidhi Khurana and Amit Thorat.
The study claims, it is a “representative” sample of adults in Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and SARI “dataset is unique”. Done by “using low-cost phone survey methods”, responses from 753 men and 658 women were sought in Delhi, as against 791 men and 808 women in Uttar Pradesh, and 1611 men and 1749 women in in Rajasthan . Between 18 per cent and and 29 per cent respondents agreed to be interviewed.
Calling ghunghat as one of the three indicators of “prejudice against women”, the study says, the other two SARI captured were on whether respondents think women should not work outside the home, and whether men eat meals first.
The study defines ghunghat as the “practice of women veiling their heads or faces with the end of a sari or a dupatta”, insisting it “reinforcing women’s unequal position in families and in society”, agreeing that ghunghat has “a different social meaning than pardah, the practice of women’s seclusion common in Muslim households.”
However, it underscores, “Hindu women who do not practice ghunghat report having say in more decisions related to their own lives than women who do”, with women who do not practice ghunghat are “12 percentage points more likely” to report having at least some say in household decision making.”
Providing age-wise breakup in Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the study says, “Although urban areas show some age gradient in the practice, rural areas show little, and overall the age gradient is less steep than we expected. This may be because ghunghat can be practiced more or less intensely.”
Refusing to identify age-wise intensity of ghunghat according to age, the study says, while a “younger woman might practice ghunghat by covering her whole face, while an older woman covers only her hair, our data do not capture these differences.”
Claiming that the SARI survey results are similar to those of the “nationally representative 2011 India Human Development Survey (IHDS)”, which was carried out in 2011, the study says, “There is also less of a difference in the percent of women who practice ghunghat between rural and urban areas than we expected, though again, we have not measured the intensity of the practice.”
Providing data for other age groups, the study says, 63 per cent of Delhi women in the age group 26-40 and 44 per cent in the age group 41-60 practice ghughat. The respective percentage for rural Rajasthan is 99 and 89; and for urban Rajasthan it is 89 and 84. As for rural Uttar Pradesh, 94 per cent and 93 per cent women in the age groups 26-40 and 41-60 respectively practice ghughat, and in urban Uttar Pradesh, the percentage is 63 and 39 respectively.
This report was first published in www.counterview.net