Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 333–342 | Cite as

Gender Based Violence: Correlates of Physical and Sexual Wife Abuse in Kenya

  • Sitawa R. KimunaEmail author
  • Yanyi K. Djamba
Original Article


This study explored factors associated with physical and sexual wife abuse on a sample of 4,876 married women aged 15–49 years in the 2003 Kenya Demographic Health Survey. Results indicate that 40% of married women reported at least one type of violence; 36% were physical and 13% were sexual. Multivariate analysis showed that living in poorer households, being Christian, being in a polygamous marriage, having a husband who drinks alcohol, and being in sales, agricultural, or unskilled jobs significantly increased the wife’s risk of physical and sexual abuse. Wife’s education had significant effect on both physical and sexual abuse, but the relationships were not linear. Wife’s age and number of children were significantly associated only with physical abuse; husband’s education had a marginal but significant effect only on sexual abuse. Research implications are discussed.


Africa Kenya Domestic violence Physical Sexual 


  1. Amnesty International (2002). Rape—the invisible crime. Amnesty International 8 March 2002.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, K. L. (1997). Gender, status, and domestic violence: An integration of feminist and family violence approaches. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 59, 655–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atinmo, M. (1997). Socio-cultural implications of wife-beating among the Yoruba in Ibadan City, Nigeria. In F. Oyekanmi (Ed.), Men, women and violence (pp. 80–81, 93, & 111). Dakar: CODESRIA.Google Scholar
  4. Atkinson, M. P., Greenstein, T. N., & Lang, M. M. (2005). For women, breadwinning can be dangerous: Gendered resource theory and wife abuse. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1137–1148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. CBS, MOH, & ORC Macro (2003). 2003 Kenya demographic and health survey (KDHS). Calverton, MD: CBS.Google Scholar
  6. Coleman, D. H., & Straus, M. A. (1990). Marital power, conflict, and violence in a nationally representative sample of American couples. In M. A. Straus & R. J. Gelles (Eds.), Physical violence in American families (pp. 287–300). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
  7. Counts, D. A., Brown, J., & Campbell, J. (1992). Sanctions and sanctuary: Cultural perspectives on the beating of wives. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cubbins, L. A., & Vannoy, D. (2005). Socioeconomic resources, gender traditionalism, and wife abuse in urban Russian couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 37–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ellsberg, M., Heise, L., Pena, R., Agurto, S., & Winkvist, A. (2001). Researching domestic violence against women: Methodological and ethical considerations. Studies in Family Planning, 32(1), 1–16.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ellsberg, M., Pena, R., Herrera, A., Liljestrand, J., & Winkvist, A. (2000). Candies in hell: Women’s experience of violence in Nicaragua. Social Science and Medicine, 51(11), 1595–1610.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fagan, J. A., Steward, D. K., & Hansen, K. V. (1983). Violent men or violent husbands? Background factors and situational correlates of severity and location of violence. In D. Finkelhor, R. J. Gelles, G. T. Hotaling, & M. A. Straus (Eds.), The dark side of families: Current family violence research (pp. 49–67). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. FIDA-K (1997). Sauti Ya Akina Dada (Women’s Voices). Women’s Rights Monitoring and Report Writing Programme. Nairobi: Federation of Women Lawyers—Kenya.Google Scholar
  13. FIDA-K (2001). FIDA Kenya annual report. Nairobi: Federation of Women Lawyers—Kenya.Google Scholar
  14. Heise, L. (1993). Violence against women: The missing agenda. In M. Koblinsky, J. Timyan & J. Gay (Eds.), The health of women: A global perspective. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  15. Heise, L., Ellsberg, M., & Gottemoeller, M. (1999). Ending violence against Women. Population Reports, 27(4), 5 Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Population Information Program.Google Scholar
  16. Heise, L., Ellsberg, M., & Gottemoeller, M. (2002). A global overview of gender-based violence. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 78(Suppl.1), S5–S14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heise, L., Pitanguy, J., & Germain, A. (1994b). Violence against women: The hidden health burden. World Bank Discussion paper, No.255. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  18. Heise, L., Raikes, A., Watts, C., & Zwi, A. B. (1994a). Violence against women: A neglected public health issue in less developed countries. Social Science & Medicine, 39(9), 1165–1179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Houben, N. (2003). Implementation of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women by Kenya. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 28th Session, 13–31 January 2003.Google Scholar
  20. IRIN (2007). Kenya: Sexual and domestic violence prevalent. Humanitarian News and Analysis: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.Google Scholar
  21. Isiugo-Abanihe, U. C. (1994). Reproductive motivation and family size preferences among Nigerian men. Studies in Family Planning, 25(3), 149–261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jewkes, R., Penn-Kekana, L., Levin, J., Ratsaka, M., & Schrieber, M. (1999). He must give me money, he mustn’t beat me: Violence against women in three South African provinces. Pretoria, South Africa: CERSA (Women’s Health), Medical Research Council.Google Scholar
  23. Jewkes, R., Penn-Kekana, L., Levin, J., Ratsaka, M., & Schrieber, M. (2001). Prevalence of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of women in three South African provinces. South African Medical Journal, 91, 421–428.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Kanyago, N. (2001). “Beyond the door: the challenges ahead.” FIDA Kenya annual report 2001. Nairobi: Federation of Women Lawyers—Kenya.Google Scholar
  25. Khasakhala-Mwenesi, B., Buluma, R. C., Kong’ani, R. U., & Nyarunda, V. M. (2004). Gender violence. In Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) [Kenya], Ministry of Health (MOH) [Kenya], & ORC Macro, Kenya demographic and health survey 2003. Calverton, MD: CBS.Google Scholar
  26. Kim, J. Y., & Sung, K. (2000). Conjugal violence in Korean American families: A residue of the cultural tradition. Journal of Family Violence, 15(4), 331–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kimuna, S. R., & Djamba, Y. K. (2005). Wealth and extramarital sex among men in Zambia. International Family Planning Perspectives, 31(2), 83–89.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kishor, S., & Johnson, K. (2004). Profiling domestic violence: A multicountry study. Calverton, MD: ORC Macro.Google Scholar
  29. McCloskey, L. A., Williams, C., & Larsen, U. (2005). Gender inequality and intimate partner violence among women in Moshi, Tanzania. International Family Planning Perspectives, 31(3), 124–130.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moore, M. (1999). Reproductive health and intimate partner violence. Family Planning Perspectives, 31(6), 302–306, 312.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mulama, J. (2005). East Africa: Violence against women defies laws and education campaigns. The Norwegian Council for Africa: Inter Press Service.Google Scholar
  32. Parish, W. L., Wang, T., Laumann, E. O., Pan, S., & Luo, Y. (2004). Intimate partner violence in China: National prevalence, risk factors and associated health problems. International Family Planning Perspectives, 30(4), 174–181.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Rutstein, S. O., & Johnson, K. (2004). The DHS wealth index. DHS Comparative Reports No. 6. Calverton, MD. ORC Macro.Google Scholar
  34. Straus, M. A., & Gelles, R. J. (1989). Physical violence in American families: Risk factors and adaptation to violence in 8,145 families. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
  35. Straus, M. A., Gelles, R. J., & Steinmetz, S. K. (1980). Behind closed doors: Violence in the American family. New York: Anchor Press.Google Scholar
  36. Tjaden, P. G., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Prevalence and consequences of male-to-female and female-to-male intimate partner violence as measured by the National Violence against Women Survey. Violence Against Women, 6(2), 142–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. UNAIDS (2006). Violence against women and girls in the era of HIV and AIDS: A situation and response analysis in Kenya. UNAIDS Initiative—The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, June 2006.Google Scholar
  38. Were, G. S. (1967). Western Kenya historical texts. Nairobi: Kenya Press.Google Scholar
  39. Wood, K., & Jewkes, R. (1997). Violence, rape, and sexual coercion: everyday love in a South African township. Gender & Development, 5(2), 23–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. World Health Organization (2002). World report on violence and health. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  41. World Health Organization (2004). Violence against women and HIV/AIDS: Critical intersections–intimate partner violence and HIV/AIDS. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  42. World Health Organization (2005). WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  43. Yllo, K. A. (1993). Through a feminist lens: Gender, power and violence. In R. J. Gelles & M. Bogard (Eds.), Feminist Perspectives on wife abuse (pp. 47–62). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.East Carolina UniversityGreenvilleUSA
  2. 2.Auburn University MontgomeryMontgomeryUSA

Personalised recommendations