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In dry Bihar, ‘84% of women face spousal violence when husbands get drunk often’, finds NFHS-5

Spousal violence prevails in the State across all groups; most women who said their husbands drink belong to border districts

Bihar was declared a dry State in April 2016 but the latest (2019-21) National Family Health Survey-5 report finds that “84% of women face spousal violence when their husbands get drunk often” and “61% of them face spousal violence when their husbands are drunk sometimes”.

Bihar is second only to Karnataka (at 44%) with 40% of married women between the ages of 18 and 49 years subjected to spousal violence, said the report, adding, “spousal violence prevails in the state across all groups, although it is lower among more educated women and higher among currently married women (42%) and women married more than once (61%)”.

The report also said: “43% of women face spousal violence when their husbands drink but never get drunk and 34% of them whose husbands never get drunk.”

In December 2020, the NFHS-5 had said that over 15% men above the age of 15 years “consume alcohol” in dry Bihar.

The report had also said that nearly 77% women in Bihar have their own bank account and over 51% of them use mobile phones.

Most of the women who told the 2019-21 NFHS-5 survey that their husbands drink belong to districts sharing borders with the neighbouring States of Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, and the neighbouring country of Nepal.

“Liquor comes into Bihar from the areas bordering Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, and also from Nepal, while desi (countrymade) liquor is traditionally brewed in districts with tribal populations sharing borders with Jharkhand,” said Professor S. K. Singh of the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai who, along with Luxmi Kant Dwivedi, Chander Shekhar and Brajesh, contributed to the NFHS-5 report.

The report stated: “More than two-fifths (42%) of women have experienced both physical and sexual violence and the most common types of injuries among women ever-married who have experienced physical and sexual violence are cuts, bruises or aches (39%), deep wounds, broken bones, broken teeth or any other serious injury (17%), eye injuries, dislocations or minor burns (16%), and severe burns (4%).”

It further said that “the contextual and intergenerational aspects of spousal violence are clear from the fact that women whose mothers were beaten by their fathers are almost twice [in number]”.

The report also said that only 11% of women in the age group of 18-49 years who had experienced physical or sexual violence sought help, while 7% never sought help but told someone about the spousal violence. “Among women who sought help were their husband’s family (45%), their own family (40%), friends (11%) and neighbours (9%),” the report stated.

The reasons for spousal violence provided by women in the survey report are: “going out without informing the husband”; “neglecting the house or children”; “arguing with the husband”; “refusing to have sexual intercourse with the husband”; “not cooking properly”; “suspicion of infidelity”; and “showing disrespect to the in-laws”.

“Among those ever subjected to spousal violence, 55% women were afraid of their husbands most of the time, 39% occasionally, and 27% were never afraid,” the survey said.

The NFHS-5 report also said that early marriage continues to be prevalent in Bihar as 41% of women aged 20-24 years had married before 18 years of age.

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