G C Chaturvedi, director, National Rural Health Mission opines: ''In India, the worst problem we face is that victims in almost all states don't feel victimized, both in case of dowry or spousal violence. They feel being beaten up or tortured by their husband is all right. They have been groomed to believe that. We are trying to change this mindset by educating and empowering more women, making them aware of their rights. It will take some time to change people.
'Meanwhile, NFHS-III has made some other shocking observations. While 1 in 10 have experienced sexual violence, 1 in 6 experienced emotional violence by their husbands", adds Chaturvedi.
Among the Indian states, Bihar has been found to be the worst, with abuse rate as high as 59%. About 63% of these incidents of violence on women were in urban families. Bihar was followed by Rajasthan (46.3%), MP (45.8%), Manipur (43.9%), UP (42.4%), TN (41.9%) and West Bengal (40.3%).
Most of the women assaulted by their husbands were less than two years into their marriage. According to the figures, 62% experienced physical or sexual violence within the first two years of marriage while 32% experienced violence in the first five years.
Slapping was the most common act of physical violence by husbands. More than 34% women said their husbands slapped them while 15% said their husbands pulled their hair or twisted their arm. Around 14% of the women had things thrown at them.
According to social scientists, low levels of education are to blame for this horrifying trend. Over 47% women who suffered spousal violence had no education. The number stood at 16% for women who studied till standards X or XII.
Women belonging to SC/ST communities were the worst affected with one in three women experiencing domestic violence. Buddhist women reported the highest level of violence (41%) followed by Muslim and Hindu women (34-35%) and Sikh and Christian women (26-28%). Women from the Jain community reported the lowest level of violence (13%).
The National Family Health Survey-III, which interviewed 1.25 lakh women in 28 states and the national capital during 2005-06, says that 41% of women justified wife beating if it was because they showed disrespect towards their in-laws while 35% women were alright with being brutally assaulted by their husbands if they neglected household chores or their children.
Hence no surprises here when 51% of the 75,000 men interviewed didn't find anything wrong with assaulting their wives.
Dr Sulabha Parasuraman of the International Institute of Population Studies, who spearheaded the survey conducted jointly by 18 organizations, terms this attitude of Indian women "truly shocking".
"Men are brought up being taught that beating up their wives isn't wrong while women are told that being assaulted by their husbands is acceptable. Girls are taught that they can be punished by their husbands for disobedience. This social attitude has to change immediately," she strongly points out.