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Open Access Research article

Factors associated with attitudes towards intimate partner violence against women: a comparative analysis of 17 sub-Saharan countries

Olalekan A Uthman123*, Stephen Lawoko1 and Tahereh Moradi4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Social Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Department of Public Health & Biostatistics, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

3 Center for Evidence-Based Global Health, Ilorin, PO Box 5146, Kwara State, Nigeria

4 Department of Environmental Medicine, Division of Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC International Health and Human Rights 2009, 9:14  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-9-14

Published: 20 July 2009



Violence against women, especially by intimate partners, is a serious public health problem that is associated with physical, reproductive and mental health consequences. Even though most societies proscribe violence against women, the reality is that violations against women's rights are often sanctioned under the garb of cultural practices and norms, or through misinterpretation of religious tenets.


We utilised data from 17 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) conducted between 2003 and 2007 in sub-Saharan Africa to assess the net effects of socio-demographic factors on men's and women's attitudes toward intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW) using multiple logistic regression models estimated by likelihood ratio test.


IPVAW was widely accepted under certain circumstances by men and women in all the countries studied. Women were more likely to justify IPVAW than men. "Neglecting the children" was the most common reason agreed to by both women and men for justifying IPVAW followed by "going out without informing husband" and "arguing back with the husband". Increasing wealth status, education attainment, urbanization, access to media, and joint decision making were associated with decreased odds of justifying IPVAW in most countries.


In most Sub-Saharan African countries studied where IPVAW is widely accepted as a response to women's transgressing gender norms, men find less justification for the practice than do women. The present study suggests that proactive efforts are needed to change these norms, such as promotion of higher education and socio-demographic development. The magnitude and direction of factors associated with attitudes towards IPVAW varies widely across the countries, thus suggesting the significance of capitalizing on need-adapted interventions tailored to fit conditions in each country.