How Indians View Gender Roles in Families and Society


The Pew Research Center, based in Washington D.C., released this report on March 2, 2022, as part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project. The project examines the impact of religious change in various communities across the globe. The report was prepared by Jonathan Evans, Neha Sahgal, Ariana Monique Salazar, Kelsey Jo Starr and Manolo Corichi, members of the research team at the Pew Research Center. 

The researchers surveyed 29,999 Indian adults between November 17, 2019, and March 23, 2020, under the direction of RTI International, a non-profit organisation based in the United States. The respondents included Hindus (22,975), Muslims (3,336), Sikhs (1,782), Christians (1,011), Buddhists (719), Jains (109) and 67 people who belonged to other religions or claimed no religious affiliations. The surveys were conducted in all states and union territories of India except Manipur, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

The survey found that a majority of Indians accept women as political leaders, but favour traditional gender roles in family life. It also looks at several questions regarding gender roles in Indian society in juxtaposition with religious and regional identity.

The 74-page report contains an overview followed by three chapters: Views on women’s place in society (Chapter 1); Son preference and abortion (Chapter 2); and Gender roles in the family (Chapter 3). It also contains a note on the methodology followed.


  1. Most Indians see women as competent political leaders, the report states. More than half (55 per cent) thought women and men can be equally good political leaders, 25 per cent thought men were better political leaders than women and 14 per cent thought women were better.

  2. The survey found an overwhelming consensus among Indians that wives should always obey their husbands. Around 87 per cent respondents agreed with this statement. The report also notes that 34 per cent of adults believed that women should have the primary responsibility of childcare.

  3. Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of adults in India say both men and women should make financial decisions in a family. However, 80 per cent Indians were also recorded as being in agreement with the statement that when there is a low availability of jobs, “men should have more rights to a job than women.”

  4. As per the survey findings, around 94 per cent Indians think it is important for a family to have at least one son and 90 per cent think having at least one daughter is important. However, very few Indians (two per cent) think women should have the primary responsibility of looking after their parents.

  5. Nearly two-thirds of adults in India (63 per cent) say sons should have the primary responsibility of handling their parents’ last rites. Around 35 per cent think that both sons and daughters have equal responsibility.

  6. Four in 10 Indians find it acceptable to “get a checkup using modern methods to balance the number of boys and girls in the family”, which the report states is a euphemism for sex-selective abortion.

  7. As per survey results, 23 per cent of Indian adults said that women faced a lot of discrimination in the country at present. A further 20 per cent said Hindus faced a lot of discrimination whereas 20 per cent and 19 per cent said people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were much discriminated against.

  8. Around half of Indian adults (51 per cent) favour improving women’s safety by teaching boys to respect women. Around 26 per cent favour teaching girls to ‘behave properly’ in order to improve their safety.

  9. The report states that among all the religious groups in India, Muslims were most likely to support traditional gender roles and Sikhs were the least likely. Around 44 per cent of Muslims agree with the statement that women should be primarily responsible for looking after children. In comparison, 34 per cent each of Hindus and Jains, 27 per cent of Jains, 14 per cent of Sikhs and 12 per cent of Buddhists agreed with this statement.

  10. People from southern India were not more progressive in their opinions on gender roles than people from the ‘Hindi Belt’ states, the report notes. Whereas Indians from the south were less likely than those in the ‘Hindi Belt’ to say that a wife should always obey her husband, they were more likely to believe that men should be primary decisions makers on finances. However, the opinions also showed wide variety within regions.

  11. The report states that Indian adults were less likely to give high importance to equal rights for men and women compared to adults in North America, Western Europe and Latin America. But they were more likely to consider it important that people living in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East-North Africa region.

    Focus and Factoids by Devi Divija Singal Reddy.

    PARI Library’s health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


Jonathan Evans, Neha Sahgal, Ariana Monique Salazar, Kelsey Jo Starr and Manolo Corichi


Pew Research Center


02 Mar, 2022