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Violence Against Women: A Cross‐cultural Analysis for Africa

Alberto Alesina, Benedetta Brioschi and Eliana La Ferrara

Economica, 2021, vol. 88, issue 349, 70-104

Abstract: Using a new dataset, we investigate violence against women in Africa. We focus on cultural factors arising from pre‐colonial customs, and show that these factors determined social norms about gender roles, family structures and intra‐family violence, which persisted even when the initial conditions change. A first set of ancestral characteristics relates to women's economic role: ethnic groups where women participated less in production (e.g. due to plough agriculture, husbandry or fishing) have higher levels of violence against women today, and more acceptance of it. A second set of ancestral characteristics pertains to marriage patterns and living arrangements. Endogamy and co‐residence with the husband's family are strongly positively associated with both the level and the acceptance of domestic violence. We also uncover a sizeable gender gap in attitudes towards violence, with women being more likely to justify violence compared to men. This gap is predicted by differences in demographic characteristics and by ancestral characteristics, such as co‐residence with the husband's family and the use of the plough. Our analysis sheds light on the origin, and long‐term persistence, of gender norms conducive to gender‐based violence.

Date: 2021
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Working Paper: Violence Against Women: A Cross-cultural Analysis for Africa (2016) Downloads
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Handle: RePEc:bla:econom:v:88:y:2021:i:349:p:70-104