Decision making by Women – India

Decision making by women is considered as a yardstick for women empowerment and it is stated that in a patriarchal society women generally donot have decision making powers. It is believed that in a patriarchy, women are treated as puppets and chattels and are typically directed around. In my earlier article titled Child Gender Preference – India, we discussed the gender preferences in so called patriarchal states of India. Let’s analyze the decision making by women in some of these states:

Married Women aged 15-49 yrs who usually participate in household decisions









Himachal Pradesh








Uttar Pradesh






The north-eastern states of India are typically considered as matriarchal societies. The decision making of married women in those states were found to be considerably lower than the patriarchal states:

Married Women aged 15-49 yrs who usually participate in household decisions









Arunachal Pradesh








It would be great if someone could explain me the reasons for this difference in household decision making and as to why women in so-called patriarchal states enjoy a higher decision making power as compared to women in so-called matriarchal states. Or is it that India is ‘not’ a patriarchal society as touted, but infact an ‘egalitarian’ society?

You Decide ….


Data Source: MoHFW_National Family Health Survey, 2005-2006, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, New Delhi_2007

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5 Responses to Decision making by Women – India

  1. How exactly does one collect such data? I’m questioning the collection of data, and not the analysis of it.

    • Burt Phoenix says:

      This type of data is typically collected by way of sampling methods. Further, interviews are typically conducted with the people selected in the sample.The questionnaires are scientifically designed and the interviewers are trained in the interview process.

      The National Family Health Survey 05-06, that we are discussing, was supported by various international organizations such as USAID, UNICEF, UNFPA, DFID, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and ORC Macro, USA.

  2. ouroborosidiots says:

    I firmly believe that patriarchy is just a division of labor of who is the source of *primary income* in these families.

    Even in rural India, where it is supposedly more patriarchal, one needs to know that most of the housework is still done manually. (Laundry , Cooking, etc…) If the husband spends about 8-10 hours outside the home doing farming , plumbing etc.. chances are the wife spends the same amount of time inside the home doing her share of the tasks, if not assisting the husband with his share of tasks like agriculture etc.. ( ). But at the end of the day it is usually the husband who brings home the income.

    In fact the notion of Patriarchy – that the father is the primary breadwinner – completely breaks down in most of the poor, urban India where a house simply can NOT feed on a single income (~2USD per day is the number i think : Source: ) and both the husband and wife end up taking jobs like construction workers, domestic help etc…

    So to me, ” in a patriarchal society women generally donot have decision making powers. It is believed that in a patriarchy, women are treated as puppets and chattels and are typically directed around. ” seems to be straight out of the feminist dogma.

    BUT, may be the question – what would unmarried men and women in these situations do? – is more important to think about and needs more research?

    • Burt Phoenix says:

      Question: Why are we discussing primary source of income in decision making? Is it because you want to make a point that, as per your data, even though the primary breadwinner is the man, a high percentage of women participate in family decision making as shown above in the article. This is a very interesting observation made by you, which reinforces the fact that we are not living in a patriarchal society.

      Further, I would like to correct a few of your data points, as per time use survey women spend about 2.1 hours cooking food and 1.1 hours in cleaning the household which totals to 3.3 hours a day as compared to 8-10 hours spent by the man working.

      Further, do dig up data what % of women work as compared to men. For starters you can refer to the article titled, Women in Workforce article, which debunks the myth that equal number of women are in the workforce, instead it shows that over the years, women’s participation in the workforce has fallen.

      • ouroborosidiots says:

        No, my point was simply that the patriarchal society that feminists demonize is not the same as the patriarchal society we live in. Patriarchy in India (I have no clue about other parts of the world), is simply about division of labor. Who brings home the primary income. Nothing more. And especially is not a tool to oppress women.

        At least married women. Half of my class girls got married in the final year of the college. I dare you to find a family which would want to marry their girl to a guy who didn’t even finish college. That is patriarchy. You cannot deny it’s existence.

        The places where this “patriarchy” actually breaks is at the really poor families that can NOT survive on a single income. Everywhere else people seem to divide the labor for more personal happiness, at the expense of one party’s income.

        I didn’t use the time use survey stats because they didn’t factor into a lot of factors like time spent in urban areas vs. rural areas, use of maids, time spent on the basis of household income. Because practically speaking they vary a lot. Both in terms of time and effort. Simply due to the available technology, the lifestyle choices etc…

        Also I didn’t claim that equal number of men and women are in workforce. Lol, I’m not blind. My claim was that the “equal men and women” in workforce only happens in the poorest of poor families. There are 100s of apartments in the area I live in. If the husband worked as a security guard for an apartment, then the wife worked as a domestic help in almost all of those apartments. But more number of upper class women living in the same apartments are usually housewives.

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