Partner Violence: How Society Can Play a Role in Ending the Problem

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a widespread problem in Africa, and it has terrible effects on the people who experience it. IPV is defined as any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological, sexual, or economic harm to those involved. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, emotional abuse, controlling behaviour, and economic abuse. It can take many forms, ranging from occasional episodes of minor physical or psychological abuse to extreme cases of severe and sustained physical and psychological torture.

The scale of IPV in Africa is alarming. A 2019 UNICEF study found that among women aged between 15 and 49 years old in 30 African countries, more than one in three had experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. Intimate partner homicides are also disturbingly common; between 2010 and 2016, they accounted for nearly 10 percent of all female homicides in sub-Saharan Africa. The prevalence of IPV is also particularly high among certain vulnerable populations, such as people with disabilities. For example, a qualitative research study of intimate partner violence (IPV) among disabled women found that most of the women had experienced at least one type of IPV.

The consequences of IPV are widespread and far-reaching, affecting not only individuals but entire communities and societies. Physical injuries resulting from intimate partner violence can range from minor bruises to broken bones or even death. Psychological effects may be long-lasting and include anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Intimate Partner Violence also has an economic toll: victims may have to seek medical treatment for injuries or mental health issues; they often lose wages due to missed work days; they can be forced out of their homes; and they may have difficulty meeting basic needs such as food and shelter. Intimate partner violence contributes to gender inequality by eroding the power imbalance between men and women within relationships that persists throughout society at large.

To reduce the incidence of intimate partner violence, there must be a concerted effort by governments and civil society organisations at local, national, regional, and global levels. At the community level, programmes aimed at teaching respectful behaviour towards women should be implemented in schools, universities, workplaces, religious settings, media outlets, etc. Civil society organisations should advocate for policies that protect victims’ rights, including laws criminalising intimate partner violence, providing safe shelter for victims, promoting access to legal services, etc. National governments should develop comprehensive policies addressing intimate partner violence through prevention efforts such as public awareness campaigns and response initiatives like specialised training for police officers. Regional organisations such as the African Union could coordinate efforts amongst member states, encouraging them to ratify international conventions on gender equality such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and create robust legal frameworks governing intimate partner violence. Local, national, and global initiatives such as Brothers For Life, HeForShe and many others can help bring more attention to this important issue while raising the funds necessary for effective interventions.

Ultimately, reducing intimate partner violence requires a combination of measures centred around changing social norms related to gender roles within relationships. This means equipping people with the tools necessary for recognising harmful behaviours toward women. Engaging both genders in meaningful conversations about how we perceive each other—especially when it comes to sex—establishing trust-based relationships between men and women, educating children about healthy relationships, encouraging supportive male role models who promote gender equitable norms within families, and so on. Creating safe spaces where survivors feel comfortable speaking out about their experiences can also help reduce the stigma associated with intimate partner violence while providing opportunities for education on the topic through outreach services, mentoring, etc. Encouraging discussion around topics related to promoting gender equity in relationships continues to be a critical and essential IPV prevention approach across Africa.


This article was produced using artificial intelligence tools available on the CARTA Evidence platform. This article is a summary of some research papers (co)-authored by CARTA PhD fellows. It was edited by Jude Igumbor, and the original sources are listed below.

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