Domestic violence against women in rural Indonesia : searching for multilevel prevention

Abstract: Background: Domestic violence has been recognized globally as one of the most important Public Health concerns with severe negative health consequences for the exposed women. Through UN bodies several international milestones have successfully pushed attention towards worldwide improvements in the life situations of women. Since the ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1984, significant positive changes towards equality between men and women in Indonesia have been initiated, one being the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2004. However, there is still a need to improve the knowledge about what preventive measures that are feasible and work in different settings. This thesis aims to contribute to a better understanding of appropriate prevention strategies against domestic violence in rural Indonesia by exploring: i) risk factors for domestic violence; ii) women’s ways of coping with exposure to violence; iii) men’s views on masculinity and violence within marriage; and iv) challenges faced by local service agency in managing services for women survivors of domestic violence.Methods: Data from a cross sectional population based study was used to analyze risk factors for physical and sexual abuse among a cohort of pregnant women in Purworejo district. Further, a qualitative phenomenological interview study was conducted to reveal the dynamics of coping among women survivors of domestic violence in the same district. A Grounded Theory study based on focus group discussions with men formed the basis for a situational analysis of the linkage between masculinity and the use of violence within marriage. Finally, a qualitative case study was performed to explore the management practices of a local service agency in the district, to understand the challenges faced in their efforts to address domestic violence.Results: Sexual violence was associated with husbands’ demographic characteristics (age and low educated) and women’s economic independence. Exposure to physical violence among women was strongly associated with husbands’ personal characteristics. The attitudes and norms expressed by women confirmed unequal gender relationships. Experiencing violence led women to using an elastic band coping strategy, moving between actively opposing the violence and surrendering or tolerating the situation. The national gender equality policies were shown to have played a crucial role in transforming gender power relations among men and women (the gender order) in the Indonesian society. Three different positions of masculinity were identified, the traditionalist, the egalitarian, and the progressive, with different beliefs about men’s role within marriage and with various levels of accepting the use of violence. Long term structural preventive efforts and individual interventions targeted to the conflicting couples were preferred over reporting the abuser to the authorities. The major challenges faced by the local service agency were the low priority given by the authorities, mirrored also in low involvement in the daily service by the assigned volunteers. The local agency also stammered in translating the current law and policies into a society that held on to traditional and religious norms regulating the relationships between men and women.Conclusion: Overall, this thesis illustrates that sociocultural traditions and religious teaching still viscously influence people’s attitudes and beliefs about the use of violence within relationships. Domestic violence has not been accepted as a criminal act but is still to a large extent seen as a private family affair. Culturally sensitive programs aimed to bridging the gap between the current laws and policies and the socio-cultural traditions need to be further developed to protect women from domestic violence and increase gender equity in the Indonesian setting.