Reflecting an unambiguous desire for financial independence, an overwhelming majority of young Indian women say they want to study and work, in a new survey conducted by the All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA).

Though their choices are restricted by economic, social and cultural factors, most of the 2,460 women surveyed aspire to be successful, and of “service to their parents and society” said AIDWA president Subhashini Ali, at the association's National Convention of Young Women on Thursday. Entitled “The Right to Choice”, the convention brought together young women from across castes, religions and regions.

The survey also reveals that a significant percentage of women want to marry a person of their choice. In Karnataka for instance, 78 per cent expressed this desire. In Haryana, 63 per cent said they believed they should be paid for household work.

However, this yearning for independence often comes in the backdrop of domestic violence and restrictions imposed on them. In Rajasthan for instance, seven out of 40 women (17.5 per cent) respondents said they were not allowed to participate in cultural activities or games, while nine said they faced violence within their marital homes.

However, all 40 said they wanted to become independent.

Literary critic and Professor of Kannada in Bangalore University, Basavaraj Kalgudi, said that the new assertiveness among women over the last two decades has provoked greater hostility towards them from a patriarchal society. Women, whose “only language was silence” now want to be heard. But a traditional society has not yet come to terms with this growing assertion of independence, he said. Women are now increasingly victims of “honour killings” for choosing their own marriage partners.

‘Men have their uses'

Actor Suhasini Mani Ratnam spoke from her own experiences: “I was born in a part of Tamil Nadu notorious for eliminating the girl child. I was the third daughter born to my parents and I have my mother to thank for deciding that I was not an unwanted child.” She acknowledged the men who played a positive role in her life, including her husband, director Mani Ratnam: “Men do have their uses!” she said.