Damned If You Do and Damned If You Don’t!


A recent analysis by the Gutmacher Institute of nearly 1,500 in-person interviews with women in the urban district of Moshi, Tanzania, highlights the need for policies and programs aimed at empowering women to take control of their sex lives and fertility. One in five women interviewed said she had been physically or sexually abused—physically threatened, hit, slapped, kicked or otherwise physically hurt or forced to have sex against her will— by her partner in the past year. One in four reported having been abused in her lifetime.
In East Africa, where large families are common, women often bear the blame if a couple cannot conceive. Women who cannot bear children have twice the odds of being beaten or sexually abused by their partners as do mothers.
Surprisingly, women with larger than average families (five or more children) may be at even greater risk, with two-and-a-half times the odds of being beaten or sexually abused. As family size decreases all over Africa in response to changing cultural norms, the stigma of having an unusually large family and the financial strain of raising many children may contribute to this phenomenon. In other words, women are blamed for having too many children, or too few, and in a culture where violence against women is broadly accepted this blame may lead to abuse. Policies and programs should discourage men from blaming women for infertility, conclude authors Laura Ann McCloskey of the University of Pennsylvania, Corrine Williams of Harvard University and Ulla Larson of the University of Maryland in “Gender Inequality and Intimate Partner Violence Among Women in Moshi, Tanzania.

My wish this holiday season is for an end to domestic abuse. I wish that men and women could live equally in a world that is tolerant of all people and their lifestyles.


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