Women's "Justification" of Domestic Violence in Egypt

Article excerpt

We explored the influences of women's social learning, marital resources and constraints, and exposure to norms about women's family roles on their views about wife hitting or beating among 5,450 participants in the 2005 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey. One half justified wife hitting or beating for some reason. Women from rural areas who were exposed to domestic violence more often justified such acts. Dependent wives whose husbands had more schooling, were blood relatives, and were coresident more often justified such acts. In settings where women tended to marry at older ages, women less often justified such acts. Women's resources and constraints in marriage accounted for the largest share of the variability in their attitudes about domestic violence against women.

Key Words: cross-cultural, domestic violence, family conflict, gender.

Domestic violence refers to "assaultive and coercive behaviors that adults use against their intimate partners" (Holden, 2003, p. 155). Accordingly, both men and women may commit domestic violence. Studies (of often purposive samples) in North America and Europe have shown that men and women commit physical and psychological domestic violence equally often (Straus, 2004; Swan, Gambone, Caldwell, Sullivan, & Snow, 2008), yet men's physical violence has been more injurious, and men more often have stalked, sexually assaulted, and used coercive tactics of control (Swan et al.). Also, women in poorer, more gender-stratified settings have experienced physical domestic violence more often than have men (ORC Macro, n.d.). According to surveys in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, between 12% and 7 1 % of women have reported a prior experience of physical domestic violence (Douki, Nacef, Belhadj, Bouasker, & Ghachem, 2003; GarciaMoreno, Jansen, Ellsbert, Heise, & Watts, 2006; Hindin, Kishor, & Ansara, 2008; Watts & Zimmerman, 2002), and according to reports by women or men, women have initiated such violence less often (Kishor & Johnson, 2004; ORC Macro). Thus, reported domestic violence has been gender asymmetrical in ways that may have disproportionately and adversely affected women.

Despite the burden of domestic violence against women globally, beliefs about such violence are ill understood. In the United States, such violence typically has not been condoned, but men have blamed the victim more often than have women (e.g., Bryant & Spencer, 2003; Locke & Richman, 1999). In national studies outside the United States, women's tendency to justify wife beating has varied from less than 10% to over 90% (Kishor & Johnston, 2004; World Health Organization [WHO], 2005). This variation may stem not only from question design but also from the normative, legal, and structural contexts related to gender and violence. More than 50% of women in poorer, more rural settings, for example, have reported that wife beating is justified for some reason (WHO, 2005). Indeed, women's agreement that wife beating is justified has been associated with its occurrence outside the United States (e.g., Gage, 2005), yet crosscultural research on women's views about domestic violence against women is limited (e.g., Hindin, 2003; Lawoko, 2006; Yount, 2005a; Yount & Carrera, 2006).

We explored the influences of women's social learning, resources and constraints in marriage, and exposure to norms about women's family roles on their tendency to justify physical violence against wives. We also assessed which theory best accounts for this view. We addressed these questions in a national sample of 5,450 ever-married women who took part in the 2005 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS; El-Zanaty & Way, 2006). Egypt is an especially useful site for this study, being a highly gender-stratified setting where domestic violence against women is common (El-Zanaty & Way, 2006; Yount, 2005a, 2005b). This study, thus, tests the relevance beyond Western settings of three theories for women's justification of violence against wives. …