IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Violence Begets Violence: Armed conflict and domestic sexual violence in Sub-Saharan Africa


  • Gudrun Østby

    (Peace Research Institute Oslo)


While the study of the causes of civil conflict is a well-established sub-discipline in the conflict literature, less is known about how political violence affects society. Although the majority of the direct victims of war are men, women face more insidious challenges, such as difficulty in providing for families and coping with sexual violence. The consequences of a conflict in terms of sexual violence are not limited to the abuses performed by conflict actors, nor are they limited to the period when the conflict was active. Drawing on psychological theories, this paper argues that armed conflict can have negative consequences for sexual violence in the private sphere. Combining subnational data on armed conflict events with individual-level data on partner abuse from DHS surveys in 17 Sub-Saharan African countries for a total of 95,913 women aged 15-49, I analyse the impact of conflict intensity on intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV). Individual-level analyses show that there is an independent, significant effect of armed conflict intensity in the home region of the respondent as regards her risk of experiencing IPSV. This result is robust even when controlling for factors such as childhood exposure to parent violence and the husband’s alcohol consumption.

Suggested Citation

  • Gudrun Østby, 2016. "Violence Begets Violence: Armed conflict and domestic sexual violence in Sub-Saharan Africa," HiCN Working Papers 233, Households in Conflict Network.
  • Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:233

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Saile, Regina & Neuner, Frank & Ertl, Verena & Catani, Claudia, 2013. "Prevalence and predictors of partner violence against women in the aftermath of war: A survey among couples in Northern Uganda," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 17-25.
    2. Annan, Jeannie & Brier, Moriah, 2010. "The risk of return: Intimate partner violence in Northern Uganda's armed conflict," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 152-159, January.
    3. Ralph Sundberg & Erik Melander, 2013. "Introducing the UCDP Georeferenced Event Dataset," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 50(4), pages 523-532, July.
    4. Elisabeth Jean Wood, 2006. "Variation in Sexual Violence during War," Politics & Society, , vol. 34(3), pages 307-342, September.
    5. Gage, Anastasia J., 2005. "Women's experience of intimate partner violence in Haiti," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 343-364, July.
    6. Maarten J. Voors & Eleonora E. M. Nillesen & Philip Verwimp & Erwin H. Bulte & Robert Lensink & Daan P. Van Soest, 2012. "Violent Conflict and Behavior: A Field Experiment in Burundi," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 941-964, April.
    7. Tomz, Michael & Wittenberg, Jason & King, Gary, 2003. "Clarify: Software for Interpreting and Presenting Statistical Results," Journal of Statistical Software, Foundation for Open Access Statistics, vol. 8(i01).
    8. Plümper, Thomas & Neumayer, Eric, 2006. "The Unequal Burden of War: The Effect of Armed Conflict on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 723-754, July.
    9. Gupta, J. & Acevedo-Garcia, D. & Hemenway, D. & Decker, M.R. & Raj, A. & Silverman, J.G., 2009. "Premigration exposure to political violence and perpetration of intimate partner violence among immigrant men in Boston," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 99(3), pages 462-469.
    10. Jewkes, Rachel & Levin, Jonathan & Penn-Kekana, Loveday, 2002. "Risk factors for domestic violence: findings from a South African cross-sectional study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(9), pages 1603-1617, November.
    11. Tauchen, Helen V & Witte, Ann Dryden & Long, Sharon K, 1991. "Domestic Violence: A Nonrandom Affair," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 32(2), pages 491-511, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Silvia Ubillos-Landa & Alicia Puente-Martínez & Gina Arias-Rodríguez & Marcela Gracia-Leiva & José Luis González-Castro, 2019. "Coping Strategies Used by Female Victims of the Colombian Armed Conflict: The Women in the Colombian Conflict (MUCOCO) Program," SAGE Open, , vol. 9(4), pages 21582440198, December.
    2. Magda Tsaneva & Marc Rockmore & Zahra Albohmood, 2019. "The effect of violent crime on female decision-making within the household: evidence from the Mexican war on drugs," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 615-646, June.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Pal, Sumantra, 2018. "Spousal Violence and Social Norms in India's North East," EconStor Preprints 179422, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    2. Saile, Regina & Neuner, Frank & Ertl, Verena & Catani, Claudia, 2013. "Prevalence and predictors of partner violence against women in the aftermath of war: A survey among couples in Northern Uganda," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 17-25.
    3. Diana Lopez-Avila, 2016. "Measuring Women's Empowerment: lessons to better understand domestic violence," PSE Working Papers halshs-01294565, HAL.
    4. Jorge M. Agüero & Veronica Frisancho, 2020. "Measuring Violence Against Women with Experimental Methods," Working papers 2020-14, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    5. Heath, Rachel & Hidrobo, Melissa & Roy, Shalini, 2020. "Cash transfers, polygamy, and intimate partner violence: Experimental evidence from Mali," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    6. Sara J Shuman & Kathryn L Falb & Lauren F Cardoso & Heather Cole & Denise Kpebo & Jhumka Gupta, 2016. "Perceptions and Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 11(6), pages 1-12, June.
    7. Stefano Costalli & Luigi Moretti & Costantino Pischedda, 2017. "The economic costs of civil war," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 54(1), pages 80-98, January.
    8. Seema Vyas & Charlotte Watts, 2009. "How does economic empowerment affect women's risk of intimate partner violence in low and middle income countries? A systematic review of published evidence," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(5), pages 577-602.
    9. Diana Lopez-Avila, 2016. "Measuring Women's Empowerment: lessons to better understand domestic violence," Working Papers halshs-01294565, HAL.
    10. Gudrun Østby & Henrik Urdal & Andreas Forø Tollefsen & Andreas Kotsadam & Ragnhild Belbo & Christin Ormhaug, 2018. "Organized Violence and Institutional Child Delivery: Micro-Level Evidence From Sub-Saharan Africa, 1989–2014," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 55(4), pages 1295-1316, August.
    11. Parlow, Anton, 2017. "Political Violence, Domestic Violence, and Children's Health: The Case of Pakistan," MPRA Paper 82966, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Matzopoulos, Richard & Bowman, Brett & Mathews, Shanaaz & Myers, Jonny, 2010. "Applying upstream interventions for interpersonal violence prevention: An uphill struggle in low- to middle-income contexts," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 62-70, September.
    13. Omar Faroque & Md. Rafiqul Islam & Md. Mominul Islam, 2015. "Domestic Violence against Married Women in Bangladesh: An Analysis on Female Employees of Some NGOs," Journal of Public Policy & Governance, Research Academy of Social Sciences, vol. 2(2), pages 75-82.
    14. Kohli, Anjalee & Perrin, Nancy & Mpanano, Remy Mitima & Banywesize, Luhazi & Mirindi, Alfred Bacikenge & Banywesize, Jean Heri & Mitima, Clovis Murhula & Binkurhorhwa, Arsène Kajabika & Bufole, Nadine, 2015. "Family and community driven response to intimate partner violence in post-conflict settings," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 276-284.
    15. Vyas, Seema & Jansen, Henrica AFM. & Heise, Lori & Mbwambo, Jessie, 2015. "Exploring the association between women's access to economic resources and intimate partner violence in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya, Tanzania," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 307-315.
    16. Lu Gram & Rolando Granados & Eva M. Krockow & Nayreen Daruwalla & David Osrin, 2021. "Modelling collective action to change social norms around domestic violence: social dilemmas and the role of altruism," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 8(1), pages 1-15, December.
    17. Christopher K. Butler & Jessica L. Jones, 2016. "Sexual violence by government security forces: Are levels of sexual violence in peacetime predictive of those in civil conflict?," International Area Studies Review, Center for International Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, vol. 19(3), pages 210-230, September.
    18. Sommers, Marc, 2013. "Adolescents and violence: lessons from Burundi," IOB Discussion Papers 2013.02, Universiteit Antwerpen, Institute of Development Policy (IOB).
    19. Meng, Xin & Zhao, Guochang, 2021. "The long shadow of a large scale education interruption: The intergenerational effect," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(C).
    20. Christoph Schwierz & Boris Augurzky & Axel Focke & Jürgen Wasem, 2012. "Demand, selection and patient outcomes in German acute care hospitals," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(3), pages 209-221, March.

    More about this item


    Domestic violence; intimate partner sexual violence; armed conflict; GIS; DHS; Sub-Saharan Africa;
    All these keywords.

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:233. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Alia Aghajanian or The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask the person in charge to update the entry or send us the correct address or or (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.