Justifying Physical Violence against Men and Women:

Sarah Medeiros (Sarah.Medeiros@UCLA.edu)
Primary Care, Charles Drew University and David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
October, 2009
Sarah Medeiros, MS IV
Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science and David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA


S. Medeiros, S. Bazargan-Hejazi, K. Dalal, R. Mohammadi

BACKGROUND: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a global public health and human rights problem that cuts across age, religion, ethnicity and culture. In southern Africa, high rates of IPV are common and associated with consequences spanning physical and emotional health, family dynamics and economic losses. Much research has been devoted to identifying risk and eliciting factors of IPV while a few studies focused on attitudes of female victims of IPV, specifically women’s attitudes towards violence against women. This cross-sectional study examines attitudes of female IPV victims in Malawi with respect to physical violence against both women and men.

METHODS: Data was collected as part of the 2004 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (MDHS). Over 8,000 women, ages15-49 years, from rural and urban households, responded to a comprehensive questionnaire covering demographic and health issues, including physical, emotional and sexual violence. Along with demographic variables, data collected included exposure to IPV, attitudes toward wife beating (WB) and husband beating (HB), history of parental physical violence, and autonomy in domestic decision-making.

RESULTS: Among the 8290 respondents, 14%(1033) reported emotional violence, 25%(1647) less severe violence, 2.9%(230) severe violence, and 15%(1102) sexual violence. Women justified HB for a behavioral problem (19%), refusing sex (9.3%) or having sex with another woman (25%), and justified WB for a behavioral problem (28%), refusing sex (17%) or going out without permission (17%). Responses differed depending on type and severity of IPV, with victims more likely than non-victims to justify violence (22%;16%); family history of IPV, with women whose fathers beat their mothers more likely to justify violence (20%;16%); and autonomy, with women with no say more likely to justify violence than those with full or partial say (18%;17%;13%).

CONCLUSION: Women’s justification of IPV is related to their current and past experiences with violence and their sense of personal autonomy.

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