International Centre for Violence Research
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Research Line 5: Violence against Women: Women's Perceptions and Social Contexts of legitimization in Peru, Pakistan, and El Salvador

This research line analyses victim’s perceptions and explanations of violence against women (VAW) in Peru, El Salvador, Nigeria and Pakistan. In all of these countries, there are high levels of violence against women (WHO 2005; Abrar/Ghouri 2010; Ardito Vega/la Rosa Calle 2004; Ennaji/Sadiqi 2011; Ghanin 2009; Khan/Rizwan Said 2011; Marcus 1993; UNECA). Victims’ perceptions of domestic violence are at the centre of this project. However, the suffering of the women is often multiplied by the general perceptions and social explanations of this kind of violence through broader segments of society. Perceptions and explanations often blame the victim for being victimised and contain justifications of the obvious wrongdoing. The research project will look for shared and opposite patterns either of social explanations and justifications or responses to domestic violence, which is a key aspect to understand the prevalence and reproduction of gender-based violence in four countries of the Global South.

Research Line Leader: Rosario Figari Layús


Research Projects

Understanding and analysing victims’ perception, social explanations and justifications of domestic violence against women in Swat, Pakistan

Domestic violence is a crime most easily committed in an enabling environment. An environment is enabling because of the existing institutional policies and as well as cultural and religious pretexts used for legitimizing violence, all of which, unfortunately, are at work in Pakistan. In recent years, Pakistan has seen violence at all levels particularly with the incidence of war against terrorism. Unfortunately, the areas most affected in the North West are already most strictly patriarchal and traditional societies. This study aims to explore how domestic violence has changed in war ravaged Swat that is now returning to peace. The differences in the prevalence of domestic violence across Pakistan are startling. Compared to the rest of Pakistan, women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) suffer domestic violence in greater proportions. One such area within KPK province is Swat, which has also seen internal conflict and natural disasters in the recent past. This study aims to put this difference under the microscope and find qualitative data directly from the women about whom much empirical data is present and used by human/women’s rights activists. The objective of the study is to explore what in victims’ view is violence, what induces violent behavior in the perpetrators, what in their view is legitimate and/or illegitimate violence, what in their view is the accepted norm in the society around them, and what in their view keeps this vicious cycle going and how violence against women can decrease and whether or not external factors such as political conflict affect incidence of violence in the private sphere.

Junior Researcher: Maliha Shah (Pakistan)


"The more I hit you, the better woman you are". Discursive Perceptions from the life stories of women battered because of lack of virtuousness.

So far, significant legislative measures have been taken in Peru to prevent, punish, and eradicate violence against women. Even though this type of violence has gained more notoriety, its solution has not evolved simultaneously: there is still a large percentage of battered women, too few are reported because of rationale that justifies her attacker, and little is known about the institutions that fight violence against women. This research focuses on the region of Ayacucho, which has been chosen due to its high levels of violence against women. It was also one of the most affected regions by political violence and terrorism in the 1980s. Even though there have been some institutional programs and regulations aimed to reduce violence against women in the region, the persistence of this problem is worrisome. This situation raises the following questions: Why does the phenomenon of violence against women persist, despite having increased the visibility of the problem and having an impact on the regulatory framework? Why is there a percentage of women who choose not to report the abuses, while acknowledging its existence if the problem still persists? This problem is the framework that guides the analysis of this research; it is important to understand how the violence against women is perceived and socially constructed in order to identify the factors that allow its reproduction, particularly from the perspective of the perceptions of battered women.

Junior Researcher: Sharon Gorenstein (Peru)


Violence against women in times of nominal peace: Victims’ perceptions and social explanations about domestic violence in post-conflict Salvadorian society

In a country where violence has become part of everyday life for the citizens, certain forms of violence appear to be silenced by the enormous weight of an overwhelming social context. In particular, violence against women seems to have been sidelined by the importance of violent murders of young men and gang violence. Thus, violence against women becomes displaced to a second term in the mainstream social and political discourses. In this vacuum and silence, this research is particularly interested in understanding “how Salvadorian female victims of domestic violence, perceive and explain their experiences nowadays, and how they use to deal with them, in the post-conflict scenario”. Through the approach to institutional authorities and women who have suffered violence by in-depth interviews, we seek to explain how violence against women is understood in Salvadorian society and how the victims themselves explain, justify, and tolerate this reality; and also what elements help them to break the cycle of violence. Understanding, at the same time, how the community and political contexts influences how these realities are seen in El Salvador.

Junior Researcher: Noemy Molina (El Salvador)