Violence against women in relation to literacy and area of residence in Ethiopia

Glob Health Action. 2010 Feb 25;3. doi: 10.3402/gha.v3i0.2070.


Objective: This study explores violence against women in a low-income setting in relation to residency and literacy.

Setting: The study was conducted within the Butajira Rural Health Programme (a Health and Demographic Surveillance Site), which includes rural and semi-urban settings in south-central Ethiopia.

Design: This is a community-based cross-sectional study and is part of the WHO Women's Health and Life Events multi-country study. It included 1,994 randomly selected married women.

Methods: A standardised WHO questionnaire was used to measure physical violence, residency, literacy of the woman and her spouse, and attitudes of women about gender roles and violence. Analyses present prevalence with 95% confidence intervals and odds ratios derived from bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models.

Results: In urban and rural areas of the study area, the women were of varying ages, had varying levels of literacy and had spouses with varying levels of literacy. Women in the overall study area had beliefs and norms favouring violence against women, and women living in rural communities and illiterate women were more likely to accept such attitudes. In general, violence against women was more prevalent in rural communities. In particular, violence against rural literate women and rural women who married a literate spouse was more prevalent. Literate rural women who were married to an illiterate spouse had the highest odds (Adj. OR = 3.4; 95% CI: 1.7-6.9) of experiencing physical violence by an intimate partner.

Conclusion: Semi-urban lifestyle and literacy promote changes in attitudes and norms against intimate partner violence; however, within the rural lifestyle, literate women married to illiterate husbands were exposed to the highest risks of violence.

Keywords: Africa; health system and gender; intimate partner violence.