Domestic Violence against Women in Ghana: The Attitudes of Men toward Wife-Beating

By Osei-Tutu, Ellen Mabel; Ampadu, Ernest | Journal of International Women's Studies, August 2017 | Go to article overview

Domestic Violence against Women in Ghana: The Attitudes of Men toward Wife-Beating


Osei-Tutu, Ellen Mabel, Ampadu, Ernest, Journal of International Women's Studies


Domestic violence can be defined as an abuse (psychological/emotional, physical, sexual, and financial) between family members irrespective of sex (Sudbury-Wayland-Lincoln Domestic Violence Roundtable, 2008). Psychological/emotional violence involves being criticized and publicly embarrassed, verbally insulted, verbally threatened or experiencing demeaning remarks. Physical violence involves being pushed or shoved, slapped or having objects thrown at the victim, being kicked, beaten or dragged. Sexual violence includes unwelcome sexual touch, escape from attempted rape, being raped and embarrassed by unwanted sexual jokes or comments. Financial violence includes being economically/financially dependent on the perpetrator such that one can be denied food or money.

Domestic violence also encompasses acts or threats of physical, sexual, economic or psychological abuse, when such acts or threats occur within the context of a previous or existing relationship (Cantalupo et al, 2006). Victims may suffer from one of these or a combination of them. WHO (2005) measured violence by asking women questions on physical and sexual violence. On physical violence, among other questions, the following were also asked: whether the victim was hit, kicked, choked or threatened. For sexual violence, victims were asked if they were forced to have sex or had sex because they were afraid of what the partner might do or were forced to do something sexual that they found degrading.

Act 732 (2007), the domestic violence law in Ghana defines domestic violence to include engaging in physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse, emotional abuse and any behaviour that harms another person. It goes further to explain domestic relationship as a family relationship, a relationship akin to a family relationship or a relationship in a domestic situation that exists or has existed between a complainant and a respondent.

The issue of domestic violence is not peculiar to any particular part of the world. It occurs in both developed and developing countries. It also cuts across societies, regardless of age, wealth, geographical location among others. Domestic violence is usually not a one-off event, but a pattern of abuse over a period of time. The abuse can take place at any time in a relationship. It could start at the beginning or later on in life. It could also start on a small note and escalate in the future (Sudbury-Wayland-Lincoln Domestic Violence Roundtable, 2008).

The mention of domestic violence immediately brings to mind, women as victims. There is evidence however, that both men and women have been and are victims of domestic violence, although that of women is said to be so pervasive that it is sometimes seen as normal. There are male victims from all walks of life. In a study in Ireland for instance, it was found that 29% of women and 26% of males suffered domestic abuse (O'Sullivan, 2010). The partial explanation was that while one in three women reported domestic violence, only one in 20 men does report issues of domestic voilence.

In Africa, one of the many social dimensions arising from this gendered culture includes an acceptance of domestic violence. In some cultures, husbands have exclusive rights to the wife and condone domestic violence. (Alhmadi 2016). Women's subordinate status to men in many societies, coupled with the general acceptance of interpersonal violence as a means of resolving conflict, renders women disproportionately vulnerable to violence from all levels of society. The stigma attached to female victims of violence results in very low rates of reporting and often if women report violence against them they are either turned away because the authority sees violence against women as a matter to be dealt with privately within the family. When they struggle to access justice in a criminal justice system they are met with personnel who are not sensitive to their needs (UNECA, 2010). …

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