Despite interventions to reduce cases of gender-based violence and increase empowerment of women socially and economically, some Malawian women feel husbands are justified to beat their wives.
The women cite reasons such as burning the food or refusing to have sex with their husbands as justification for wife battering.
This has been disclosed in the Malawi Demographic Health Survey (MDHS) for 2015/16 which has found that 16 percent of women agree that a husband is justified in beating up his wife.
At least 13 percent of men also held the view that a husband was justified to beat his wife for various reasons.
Reads the survey findings in part: “Sixteen percent of women and 13 percent of men agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife for at least one of the following reasons: if she burns the food, argues with him, goes out without telling him, neglects the children or refuses to have sex with him.”
Reacting to the findings, NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) has said the perceptions expressed were more to do with rigidity to change because reported cases are on the increase, denoting that women and men acknowledge that gender based violence is wrong.
However, in the report, the National Statistical Office (NSO) noted that attitudes towards wife beating did not appear to have changed since the 2010 MDHS.
The MDHS had a national representative sample of 24 562 women aged 15 to 49 in 26 361 selected households and 7 478 men aged15 to 54 who were interviewed.
According to the NSO, this represented a response rate of 98 percent of women and 95 percent for men.
The MDHS found that women in rural areas were more tolerant to wife beating than their counterparts in urban areas. Going by region, the survey established, women in the Northern Region were more accepting of wife beating than their counterparts in other regions at 25 percent for women and 21 percent for men compared with 17 percent or less in the other regions.
The survey also said low levels of education played a role in women tolerating wife beating as women with no education or a primary level of education were more likely to justify violence compared with women with a secondary or higher level of education.
NGO-GCN national coordinator Victor Maulidi blamed socialisation for entrenching the notion that depict women as weaklings.
He said: “As such, most men despise and disrespect women. In a marriage set up, men think it’s alright to beat a woman. Unfortunately, some women also think it is okay to be beaten in a marriage set up. All such complexities, have led to such scenarios.”
However, Maulidi defended the impact of interventions by civil society, including advocating for enactment of gender laws such as Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.
Women and Law in Southern Africa-Malawi Chapter executive director Mzati Mbeko said much as laws have been enacted it was difficult for them to address issues of perception.
“The law does not really cover perceptions because its a top down approach. The law has a male voice because of the patriarchal nature of our society. Women are not engaged during law making so it is not surprising that they dont think its wrong to be beaten for such reasons,” Mbeko said. n