Prevalence and Risk Factors of Gender-Based Violence Committed by Male College Students in Awassa, Ethiopia

Article excerpt

We sought to determine the prevalence and risk factors for the perpetration of gender-based violence among 1,378 male undergraduate students in Awassa, Ethiopia. A self-administered questionnaire was used to collect information. Nearly a quarter (24.4%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 22.1-26.7) of students admitted perpetrating acts of gender-based violence during the current academic year. Approximately 15.8% (95% CI 13.7-17.9) of students reported physically abusing, and 16.9% (95% CI 14.8-19.0) reported committing acts of sexual violence against an intimate partner or nonpartner. Alcohol consumption, khat use (Catha edulis, a natural stimulant), combined use of alcohol and khat, and witnessing parental violence were risk factors for committing gender-based violent acts. These findings suggest an obvious need for effective prevention programs targeted toward changing social norms on the use of violence.

Keywords: gender-based violence; college students; Ethiopia; risk factors

Gender-based violence is increasingly recognized as a global and persistent public health problem (Watts & Zimmerman, 2002). Despite its prevalence in countries throughout the world, epidemiological evidence exists primarily in developed countries and in a limited number of settings. Developing countries have only recently begun to research the prevalence and risk factors for gender-based violence. While unacceptable globally, in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, gender-based violence, because of its high prevalence, limited access to legal services, insensitivity of law enforcement, and limited constitutional efforts to address gender inequality (Berhane, 2004), has greater negative impacts on human development than elsewhere. The very nature of gender-based violence works to undermine achievement of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations (Ellsberg, 2006; Gavey, 1991; Mulugeta, Kassaye, & Berhane, 1998; Worku & Addisie, 2002).

Recognizing the importance of researching gender-based violence, Ethiopian investigators undertook a series of community based studies to preliminarily assess the prevalence, patterns, and correlates of gender-based violence across the country (Deyessa, Kassaye, Demeke, & Taffa, 1998; Gossaye et al., 2003; Yigzaw, Yibrie, & Kebede, 2004). Results from these studies stress that the burden of violence borne by Ethiopian girls and women are among the highest globally. Investigators have consistently noted that 50% to 70% of Ethiopian women experience gender-based violence in their lifetime (Deyessa et al., 1998; Gossaye et al. 2003; Yigzaw et al., 2004). Ethiopia was 1 of 10 countries participating in the World Health Organization's (2005) Multi-Country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence Against Women (Garcia-Moreno, Jansen, Ellsberg, Heise, & Watts, 2006; Gossaye et al., 2003). In that study, a sample of 2,261 ever-married or partnered women (mean age 32.4 years) from Butajira, Ethiopia, a densely populated, largely rural district located approximately 130 kilometers south of Addis Ababa and characterized by subsistence farming and a largely Muslim population, 70.9% (95% CI 69.0-72.7), reported experiencing gender-based violence in their lifetime (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2006).

Mulugeta et al. (1998), in their study of high school students in Addis Ababa and western Showa, reported that the prevalence of sexual harassment was 74% and that attempted rape (10%) and rape (5%) were also prevalent in their study setting. Moreover, Worku and Addisie (2002) reported that approximately 9% of female high school students in Debark, northwestern Ethiopia, reported being raped and that another 12% reported escaping attempted rape. Of the students who reported being raped, the authors found high frequencies of unwanted pregnancies (21%), attempted suicide (16%), abnormal vaginal discharge (11%), and abortion (5%) (Worku & Addisie, 2002). …