Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Zambia: An Examination of Risk Factors and Gender Perceptions

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The abuse and violation of women has reached epidemic proportions in Africa and this behavior seems to be accepted as normal (Fourie, 2004). Unfortunately, there is little pressure and controls in place to deter men from such practice. The attitudes of men and society as a whole play an important role in violence against women on the continent. Gender discrimination occurs in the family as well as in general customs and practices. In male-dominated Africa, women are perceived as objects and possessions that can be controlled. This perception is made worse by the fact that men normally hold financial power in spousal relationships (Fourie, 2004). In South Africa, for example, "women are subordinate to men to such an extent that they do not believe they have the right to stand up against their partner in any way, including refusal of sex" (Fourie, 2004: 251). It has also been documented that at the international level, among people 15-44 years of age, intimate partner violence (IPV) is the third leading cause of death (Krug, 2002). A review of the literature from 35 countries has revealed that between 10% and 52% of women experience abuse from their intimate partners (WHO, 2005).

The foregoing facts constitute the impetus behind this study coupled with the increasing global awareness of violence against women, and its concomitant adverse health hazards. Empirical study of this phenomenon is relatively new, but now violence against women has been recognized as a risk to the health and rights of women (Kishor and Johnson, 2004). Particularly, in sub-Saharan Africa, wife abuse is an area that has been less subjected to empirical investigation; therefore, it is important to do this study in order to shed more light and complement existing literature on the subject. The objective of this study is to examine some risk factors associated with wife abuse, as well as gender perceptions of wife beating in Zambia, East Africa.

The United Nations General Assembly defined violence against women as "Any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm, or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life" (Kishor and Johnson, 2004: 1). There are many forms of violence against women, but the current study is concerned with a subset of violence often referred to as "domestic violence" or "intimate partner violence" (IPV) in Zambia.

The following questions are addressed in the study: a) What are the demographic and socioeconomic correlates of intimate partner violence in Zambia? b) What are female and male perceptions of wife beating?

In this paper, the terms "wife abuse," "spousal abuse," "domestic abuse," "domestic violence," and "intimate partner violence," are used interchangeably. Even though husbands can be victims of domestic violence, the focus of the paper is on wives who experienced physical abuse from their husbands.


Intimate partner violence, according to Garcia-Moreno (2002) is reinforced by gender norms and values that places women in subordinate positions relative to men. Women might be at greater risk of abuse when husbands have lower education and occupational status than they (women) do. Garcia-Moreno (2002) also notes that women with very poor or good education are less likely to be abused, but women who have higher and enough education to challenge the status quo are at the greatest risk of IPV. Decision-making autonomy in marriage is also a risk factor of IPV in many instances (Garcia-Moreno, 2002).

McCloskey, Williams, and Larsen (2005) have noted that IPV is high in Moshi, Tanzania and have identified some domains in which women are at risk of IPV. Women with only primary education or less will be at high risk of abuse and women with higher education and career/occupational status are less likely to be abused as they are perceived as valuable by their husbands and family members. …


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