Kampala. Almost half of young and middle-aged women in Uganda, who were contacted in a government survey, said wife beating is justified, but on particular grounds.
According to the findings of the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016, which government released last week, 49 per cent of the women respondents aged 15-49 agreed with at least one justification why a husband can beat his wife.
The survey was aimed at assessing the level of women emancipation in the country and the report indicated that 39 per cent of the women interviewed said beating would be justified if the wife neglected children.
“Thirty per cent agree that it is justified if she goes out without telling him whereas 26 per cent agree that it is justified if she argues with him,” the report reads in part.
Another 18 per cent of women respondents said beating is justified if a wife refuses to have sex with her husband while 14 per cent believe beating is necessary if she burns food.
Despite persistence of endorsement of wife beating trend by the female respondents, the report shows that such justification has been declining steadily.
Ms Helen Namirembe Nviiri, the director of Population and Social Statistics at the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) said the findings of the survey are aimed at guiding policy on women empowerment.
“Respondents were asked if they agreed that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under each of the following circumstances; she burns food, argues with him, neglects child and refuses to have sex with him,” Ms Nviiri said.
She added that if a respondent answered “yes” in at least one circumstance, they were considered to have attitudes justifying wife beating.
The report shows justification for wife beating varies greatly by region for both women and men, but not necessarily with a similar pattern.
“For example, while agreement with at least one reason for wife beating is low in Kampala region for both women ( 27 per cent) and men (33 per cent), in Bukedi region, agreement is lowest of any region for men (18 per cent) but highest of any other region for women (72 per cent),” the report states.
Similarly, in Kigezi, women’s agreement with wife beating is at 26 per cent, lower than any other region, but is relatively high among men at 49 per cent.
The report indicates that more than 50 per cent of rural women and 43 per cent of rural men are more likely than urban women (40 per cent) and men (33 per cent) to agree with at least one reason for wife beating.
“Women who are employed but not paid in cash (60 per cent) are more likely than women who are not employed (47 per cent) or employed and paid in cash (46 per cent) to agree with at least one reason for wife beating,” the report adds.
More unemployed men support wife beating compared to those who are employed. The study shows that five in every 10 jobless men support wife beating.
Other parameters used in the study to assess women emancipation included; negotiating sexual relationships, women and men ownership of assets and participating in decision making.
About 51 per cent of married women aged 15-49 participated in all specified household decisions, either alone or jointly with their husbands.
The report also states that majority of Ugandans believe a wife is justified in negotiating sexual relations with her husband.
After about 30 years of sustained campaign for women emancipation, rights awareness and gender equality, this is probably not the pleasant finding the country expected.
The Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (Uwopa) chairperson, Ms Monicah Amoding, said wife beating is not acceptable in all its forms.
“People need to change from the traditional thinking of beating up wives. For instance, an MP who made those wife beating remarks was criticised by many women in the public,” she said.
Last week, Bugangaizi MP Onesmus Twinamatsiko was impelled to apologise to the public on the floor of Parliament for uttering televised statements that seemed to endorse wife beating.
Ms Amoding said with indicators in the report, it means women emancipation has not made substantial success.
“Women emancipation has not been attained with such perceptions but there is need for continuous education as a way of completing this empowerment,” she said.
Dokolo District Woman MP Cecilia Atim Ogwal disagrees with the findings. She said men beat their wives not because of the justifications named in the report but due to criminality, drug abuse and alcoholism.
“Today’s woman is more informed and independent such that rural women are able to make their own money and look after children while men are busy taking alcohol. Husbands don’t beat women because of food and denying them sex but mainly due to drug abuse and alcohol,” Ms Ogwal said.
The 2016 UDHS was conducted by UBOS. Data collection took place from June 20 to December 16, 2016 The primary objective of 2016 UDHS project is to provide up-to-date estimates of basic demographic and health indicators. The sampling frame used for the UDHS is the frame of the Uganda National and Population Housing Census, conducted in 2014. The sampling frame was provided by UBOS.
A representative sample of 20,880 households resulted in 18,506 women successfully interviewed with an average of 1,200 complete interview per domain. The sample enumerations areas were selected independently from each stratum using probability proportional to size. All women aged 14-49 who were either permanent residents of a household or visitors who stayed in the selected household the night of before the survey were eligible to be interviews.
Response by region
Region Agree with at least
one specified reason (%)
South central 38.0
North Central 42.7
West Nile 56.8