An overwhelming majority of Indians say women athletes should receive equal pay as the males but 38 per cent believe that sports featuring women are not as entertaining as those featuring men, according to a BBC research.

The research, based on answers received from 10,181 respondents from 14 Indian states, shows that three quarters of Indians think sport is important in their lives but just 36% participate in any kind of sport or physical activity.

It also says that 42% of men said they played sport compared to 29% of women. People in the 15-24 age bracket play the most sport, and the research showed that those who are unmarried are also more likely to take part in sports, 54% of those unmarried play sports compared to 30% of those married/divorced.

The research shows that 41% of people believe sportswomen are as good as their male counterparts. However, a third of the Indians surveyed believed that sportswomen are in fact not as good as sportsmen.

Among the respondents, 37% said female athletes are not feminine enough and many felt that it’s not safe for women to play, while 29% believe women are not strong enough to play the sport.

“Our research shows attitudes towards women and women’s sports in India are complex, contradictory and counterintuitive. The research project shows that real progress has been made in terms of attitudes towards women and women’s sports yet some age old stereotypes retain a hold on the imagination,” Santanu Chakrabarti, the Head of Audience Research for the BBC World Service said.

“It shows that the idea of gender equality has become quite commonplace amongst the Indian population, even if this doesn’t always match with other views held. Most fascinating are the differences across the states, where attitudes sometimes conform to but more often than not completely upturn what people may expect,” he added.

Both the men and women agreed that sports are important to them. Yet, there are some sports which some people deem ‘not suitable’ for women, such as boxing, weightlifting, wresting, kabaddi and motorsports.

There is a larger gender difference in cricket with only 15% of Indian women playing it, as compared to 25% of men. However, there is little disparity when it comes to Kabaddi, with 15% of men and 11% of women taking part in the sport.

Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are the ‘sportiest’ states of India, according to the research.

When it comes to women’s sports, only 34% of India’s population consumed any news about it, with only 18% claiming to have watched women’s sports in person (the equivalent figure for men’s sports is 24%).