Skip to content

Study by Bristol researchers reveals that domestic violence is widely accepted in most developing countries

The findings have been picked up by the World Health Organisation and the UN

By Lucy Downer, Deputy News Editor

The findings have been picked up by the World Health Organisation and the UN

Researchers at the University of Bristol have revealed that societal acceptance of domestic violence against women is widespread in developing countries, with 36 per cent of people believing it is justified in certain situations.

These concerning findings were gathered using Demographic and Health Surveys conducted between 2005-2017. University of Bristol researchers analysed data from 1.17 million men and women from 49 low and middle income countries.

The surveys measured whether people thought a husband or partner could be justified in beating his wife or partner is she goes out without telling him, argues with him, neglects the children, suspects her of being unfaithful, refuses to have sex, or burns the food. 36 per cent of people thought it was justified in at least one of these cases.

However, these attitudes were found to differ greatly depending on country, with only 3 per cent of people believing this violence is justified in the Dominican Republic, compared to 83 per cent in Timor-Leste, South East Asia.

On the whole, the societal acceptance of domestic violence was higher in South Asia with nearly half the population (47 per cent) justifying it and in Sub-Saharan Africa (38 per cent), compared with Latin America and the Caribbean (12 per cent), Europe and Central Asia (29 per cent).

In 36 of the 49 countries, mainly in South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, women were more likely to justify the behaviour than men.

The political environment was revealed to play an important role in the acceptance of domestic violence. For example, this attitude of acceptance was more prevalent in countries which have experienced frequent political conflict within the past five years.

Countries under more democratic regimes, were revealed to have lower societal acceptance rates of domestic violence amongst men. The same can be said of people in countries where women are given more economic rights.

This trend reveals that education and political stability are key to tackling attitudes towards domestic violence.

Dr LynnMarie Sardinha, an ESRC Research Fellow in Domestic Violence and Health at the University of Bristol, led the research. She said: ‘This is the first study of its kind and the insights it gives us into people’s attitudes towards domestic violence in the Global South and the influence of country-level factors and environment are invaluable if we’re to tackle this global problem.’

‘The widespread justification of domestic violence by women in highly patriarchal societies suggests women have internalised the idea that a husband who physically punishes his wife or verbally reprimands her has exercised a right that serves her interest. They perceive this behaviour as legitimate disciplining, rather than an act of violence.’

‘Our findings highlight the need for tailored, geographically-differentiated and gender specific interventions targeting acceptance of domestic violence. There is need for much greater focus on addressing the acceptance of domestic violence through targeted initiatives in societies affected by political conflict. Although domestic violence is exacerbated during and after armed conflict it’s prevention in these societies has received little attention.’

The Bristol researchers hope the findings will inform the development of effective prevention programmes, targeting the factors which lead to domestic violence being accepted by different societies.

The World Health Organisation and the United Nations, have already expressed an interest in using the data to help monitor its goal of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls (goal five of the UN Sustainable Goals Agenda to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all).

Featured image: Bristol University

What do you think of these findings? Let us know:
Facebook // Epigram // Twitter