Nowadays, one of the principal social issues that have major impact upon the members of society is domestic violence. In brief, domestic violence takes place in the event when one member of the family abuses the others physically, sexually or emotionally. It entails a series of behaviors whereby an abuser persistently pursues exerting control over the other partner or children (Sartin et al., 2006). The perpetrator of domestic violence can either be a man or a woman. Moreover, the abuse may be realized in spite of race, socioeconomic status, education level and/or religion of the involved parties. However, violence against women has been the prevalent form of domestic violence especially in majority of the developing countries. The problem of domestic violence has raised concerns on the part of policymakers and researchers who are interested in health and empowerment of the women (Kishor & Johnson, 2004).
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In reviewing some population-based studies, researchers have documented that between 10% and 69% of the women in society have fallen victims of physical violence from their male counterparts (Khan, 2000). Moreover, there is a continuously growing recognition of likely connections between domestic violence and a variety of hostile mental, physical as well as reproductive health outcomes. Over the last ten years, numerous individual-level and household-level risk factors for domestic violence have been identified. The specific prevalent factors that have been found to protect the women from the risks of domestic violence are higher education levels and higher socioeconomic status levels (Sartin et al., 2006). It has also been found out that there is an inverse association between a number of demographic factors such as age, extended family residence and the number of children with the risk of domestic violence. Moreover, lower dowry levels in some countries and communities, for example in India, have been found to heighten the risk of domestic violence (Sartin et al., 2006).
As for the reasons that lead to domestic violence, there may actually be no single factor that can solely be held responsible for the perpetuation of this vice against the victims, especially women. Notwithstanding this, researchers have embarked on the inter-relatedness of the different factors in efforts of availing an understanding of this social problem in the context of different cultures. There are numerous sophisticated and interconnected established cultural and social factors which have predisposed the women in society to domestic violence. A great percentage of these manifestations of such form of violence are rooted in the historical unequal power relations that have been in existence between men and women (Khan, 2000). Some of the principal factors delivering measurable contributions to the unequal power relations comprise of socio-economic forces, the family as an institution in which these powers are applied, belief in the inherent male superiority, fear of and control over female sexuality and cultural sanctions and legislations denying both women and children an autonomous social and legal status. Besides, insufficiency of economic resources fortifies the vulnerability of the women to domestic violence and their struggle in disengaging themselves from a rapport which is violent in nature (Kishor & Johnson, 2004).
The connection existing between domestic violence, dependence and lack of economic resources is global. At times, women have kept off from seeking employment as a result of fear of and threat from their counterparts. Such a situation has exposed them to home-based and low-paid exploitative labor (Khan, 2000). Because of lack of economic independence women have not been in a position to rescue themselves from the abusive relationships that they find themselves in. Increased levels of domestic violence have also been attached to a number of macro-economic policies including globalization, structural adjustment programs and the mounting inequalities. The above listed economic factors have indirectly exposed women to violence by making men indulge in more alcohol intake, drug abuse and engagement in risky behaviors amounting to the breakdown of the social networks (Sartin et al., 2006). Overconsumption of alcohol and other drugs is another factor leading to family violence. Moreover, this factor provokes aggressiveness and violent behavior among the males in the family towards their children and the women. Furthermore, women have been victims of isolation in the families and their own communities, which in turn exposes them to domestic violence even more (Kishor & Johnson, 2004).
In both developing and industrialized countries, cultural ideologies have legitimated domestic violence against women. Communal and religious traditions have been relied upon in sanctioning the beating and chastening of wives. Physical punishments directed towards the wives have all through been condoned under the notion of women entitlement and ownership. The fact that the male partners owe control over the wealth of the family inevitably puts the authority of making decisions in him and leads to male dominance as well as proprietary rights not only over the women, but also over the children (Sartin et al., 2006). It is within the brackets of this ownership that control over the women’s sexuality has been legitimized. Likewise, the sexuality of the women in many societies is tied on the concept of family honor. Traditional norms practiced in these societies have stood for the killing of errant daughters, sisters as well as wives (who are suspected of defiling the family’s honor).
Having highlighted and discussed the various factors predisposing women to family violence, it is also imperative to mention the consequences of this vice to individuals, community and society at large. The very primary consequence of domestic violence is tendency to deny women and girls their fundamental human rights. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), women and the children (girls) have been denied their civil and political rights in the fundamental areas of health, economic survival and education, therefore, affecting the quality of the day to day life of majority of them (Sartin et al., 2006). Domestic violence has also been held responsible for undermining a number of human development goals. Majority of the countries may hardly reach their full potential since the women are not allowed to go ahead and take active parts in society (Khan, 2000). World over, the participation of women in various social development programs, especially on securing the environment and alleviating poverty, has become a major issue. However, in case if women are getting hindered from fully participating, these countries will be eroding their human capital by 50% of their populations (Kishor & Johnson, 2004).
It should be added that family violence usually comes with a number of health consequences. Some of the psychological and physical consequences born of domestic violence are far-reaching and at times fatal. Assaults amount to various injuries, which range from mere bruises and fractures to long-lasting disabilities like partial and/or total loss of vision and hearing as well as burns which can lead to disfigurement (Kishor & Johnson, 2004). For the case of female genital mutilation (FGM), the resultant medical complications include sterility, hemorrhage and serious emotional trauma. Researchers have also given evidence that considerably high levels of violence to women during pregnancy expose both the mother and the unborn fetus to health complications. The worst that can happen as a result of domestic violence is death, where the woman is murdered by either her current partner or ex-partner (Khan, 2000). Other forms of violence against women such as rapes and sexual assaults can even lead to unwanted pregnancies and such vices as illegal abortions. Similarly, women subjected to sexual violence can hardly make proper use of contraceptives or even make negotiations for safer sex. As thus, women are highly susceptible to contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS (Sartin et al., 2006).
Domestic violence also adversely affects the mental health of the victim. Those women who have been battered have a higher frequency of stress and stress-related illnesses such as panic attacks, post-traumatic stress syndrome, sleeping disturbances, depression, eating disorders, alcoholism and drug abuse, elevated blood pressure, low self-esteem and alcoholism (Khan, 2000). Children who are the witnesses of domestic violence or are also victims and often display behavioral and health problems including problems with their eating and sleeping habits as well as weight. Their learning is also negatively affected and moreover, they find it hard to develop close and positive relationships with others, and they may even been lured to committing suicide (Sartin et al., 2006).
It is, therefore, clear from the above discussion that domestic violence is considerably traumatic to the victims, community and society at large. No family or relationship is without problems, but violence must not to be taken as a remedy. Members of society ought to strive towards creating a safe, loving, happy and caring home environment.
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