The Fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) reveals that Gujarat had the highest proportion of women respondents among Indian states who reported to earn the same or more than their husbands.
In Gujarat, 53.2 percent of women respondents stated they had pay equity, compared to a national average of 39.9 percent. The figure has risen dramatically from 43.5 percent in the 2015-16 NFHS-4. The 2019 survey included 33,343 female respondents from 29,368 Gujarat households.
Of the married women who were part of the survey, 38.2 percent said that they were engaged in employment. Of the total employees, 78.6 percent reported having paid employment; the remainder received remuneration/ returns in kind.
Across India, UTs of Diu, Daman, Dadra & Nagar Haveli had the highest proportion of women (59.9 percent) who said they earned the same or more than their husband, followed by Gujarat (53.2 percent), Chandigarh (52.7 percent), Chhattisgarh (47.6 percent), and Arunachal Pradesh (47.6 percent).
In Gujarat, 90.5 percent of earning women respondents claimed they have a say in how their earnings are spent (alone or jointly with spouse), while 81.2 percent said their husbands’ earnings are spent. These figures have also risen from 79.3 percent and 63.2 percent in the previous study.
In NFHS-5, women’s responses to their participation in health-related issues, capital expenditure, and decision to visit relatives improved by 5% to 10% when compared to NFHS-4.
State-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) focusing on women’s concerns take the findings with a grain of salt. According to Neeta Hardikar, co-founder of Anandi, the increase in employment could be attributed to programmes such as MNREGA extending to districts where it was previously unavailable and getting equitable pay. “Education among women – both rural and urban – has expanded dramatically over the years, but work prospects have not increased accordingly,” she said, adding that simply having a say does not imply that it is followed through on.
Renu Khanna, director of the Sahaj NGO, stated that while women’s rights have undoubtedly been asserted as a result of increased education and awareness, the situation differs in rural and urban Gujarat. “Post-Covid, women were the first to leave or not get positions at previous wage levels,” she added, adding that various other indicators, such as the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), have revealed a gaping gender pay disparity in Gujarat.
Asserting their rights in a male-dominated culture, 88 percent of Gujarat women polled for the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 stated a wife is justified in declining sex with her husband if “she is weary or not in the mood.” In NFHS-4, the state average was 69.9 percent, whereas the national average is 86 percent. According to the survey, 86.3 percent of women believe a wife is justified in refusing sex if her husband has a sexually transmitted disease, and 85.3 percent believe it is acceptable for a wife to refuse sex if she knows her husband has sex with another woman.
The percentage of men who agreed with the explanations increased somewhat from 62 percent in the previous survey. Approximately 84.3 percent of married women in Gujarat stated that they can refuse sex with their spouses. 82.4 percent was the national average.
According to the survey, 13% of Gujarati women have experienced physical abuse, while 3% have experienced sexual violence. When it came to sexual violence, the length of the marriage or education made no difference. In a section on safer sexual practises, 0.4 percent of women and 0.9 percent of males reported having two or more partners in the past year.