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Culture and domestic violence amongst ever-married women in Malawi? An analysis of emotional, sexual, less severe physical and severe physical violence

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As many as 42% of ever-married women have experienced some form of physical, sexual or emotional violence perpetrated by their current or most recent spouse in Malawi, higher than the global estimate at 35% (NSO-Malawi & DHS-Program, 2017; WHO, 2017). Previous studies on the linkages between gender based violence or violence against women and culture in Malawi have been limited to a few selected districts with analysis being largely descriptive(Bisika, 2008; MHRC, 2006). No study has investigated associations between cultural factors and violence against married women across the whole population in Malawi by type of domestic violence. In this study, we use the latest national level data from ever married women aged 15 to 49 years to explore the association between cultural factors and the likelihood of married women experiencing sexual, physical and emotional violence after controlling for socio-economic factors using multilevel logistic regression modelling. Key cultural factors associated with violence against women were type of marriage (polygynous or monogamous), age at marriage, religion and ethnicity. Husband’s consumption of alcohol also emerged as a very important attribute of violence against married women. Interventions to tackle violence against married women in Malawi should aim at promoting monogamous marriages and discouraging polygynous marriages and the culture of heavy alcohol consumption amongst husbands. Future studies could explore further if there are key lessons that families can learn from Muslim families and across ethnic groups.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biosocial Science
Early online date6 Apr 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 6 Apr 2020


  • Culture and domestic violence in Malawi

    Rights statement: This article has been published in a revised form in Journal of Biosocial Science, This version is published under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND. No commercial re-distribution or re-use allowed. Derivative works cannot be distributed. © copyright holder.

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 1.08 MB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY-NC-ND

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