Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Men must rule! - New survey finds 70% of women prefer male-headed households

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Dr Natasha Mortley

Jamaican women have become far more empowered and independent in recent years, but a new survey has shown that almost eight of every 10 of them still believe it is natural for a man to be the head of the household, and a woman's main role is to take care of her family.

According to the Women's Health Survey 2016 for Jamaica, more than 77 per cent of the women polled agreed with a statement that God intended the man to head the household, and 70 per cent were of the view that a woman's main role is to take care of her home.

"Jamaican women's views regarding gender roles present an interesting picture. Some traditional beliefs about the respective roles of women and men are deeply entrenched in Jamaican culture, even among women with more contemporary views of gender roles," the researchers said.

A little over 32 per cent believe that a wife should obey her husband even if she disagrees with him, while 31 per cent said that a wife is obligated to have sex with her husband whenever he wants, except when she is sick or menstruating.

The findings of the study have come as a surprise for lecturer at the Regional Coordinating Unit for the Institute of Gender and Development Studies, Dr Natasha Mortley.




"I am very surprised because Jamaican women are generally very hard-working [and] we have a high prevalence of female-headed households. Jamaican women work several jobs, doing their thing, handling their families," said Mortley.

"In terms of education, so many women are achieving. We have 80 per cent females at the UWI (University of the Wes Indies) specifically; women are excelling in terms of their own businesses, women are excelling in sports, we have so many good female role models in the Jamaican society. Jamaica ranked in the top three for female managers in a survey that was done about three years ago," said the university lecturer.

The Women's Health Survey 2016 was launched last Thursday at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in Kingston, and gives a comprehensive assessment of gender-based violence in Jamaica.

But director of policy and research at the Bureau of Gender Affairs, Sharon Robinson, is not as surprised by the findings. She noted that even women who are earning more still want the man to lead the household.

"I think that is basically the view that is held by most women, and that is sort of biblical in a sense, because the Bible speaks about the men as the head of the house," Robinson told The Sunday Gleaner.

"I think most of our Jamaican women see the men as the breadwinner, the provider, and the person who looks out for the family, so even if the woman is working, even doing better than he is, in terms of salary, she still thinks that the role of the man is critical, and that he has that pivotal role of standing up and stepping up to the plate for the family," added Robinson.




The survey also found that women embraced the belief that a man is the natural head of the family regardless of their age, education or where they live.

"The only significant differences were found among women who had ever been married and those who had not, and by employment status. A higher percentage (82 per cent) of women who had ever been married held this view, as did a higher percentage (90.6 per cent) of unemployed women," researchers found.

According to the researchers: "The findings indicate that the norm is for men in the Jamaican society to be seen as aggressive, powerful, unemotional and controlling, which contributes to a social acceptance of men as dominant. Similarly, expectations of females as passive, nurturing, submissive and emotional reinforce women's role as weak, powerless and dependent upon men."