Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an important public health issue as it impacts negatively on health, economic and development outcomes. In conflict affected northern Uganda, IPV prevalence is high and additional context-specific risk factors exist. People residing in this region have been displaced, exposed to war and violence, and had livelihoods destroyed. There are few studies examining IPV in this setting. In this study we aim to further understand the prevalence of IPV towards women and its associations in conflict affected northern Uganda.
This was a cross-sectional, behavioural survey designed to capture quantitative information related to experiences of IPV among women living near two health clinics in rural northern Uganda. There were 409 women who participated in the survey. Data were analysed using logistic regression.
High rates of emotional, physical and sexual IPV were found; 78.5% of women had experienced at least one type of IPV, and slightly more than half of the participants had experienced IPV in the 12 months prior to the survey. Many women felt that IPV was justified in certain situations. Significant determinants of IPV included alcohol abuse by the male partner (OR 2.22, 95% CI 1.34–3.73); partner having been in a physical fight with another man (OR 1.90, 95% CI 1.12–3.23); controlling behaviours by the male partner (OR 1.21, CI 1.08–1.36). and younger age of the woman (OR 0.95, 95% CI 0.92–0.98). Educational level was not independently associated with IPV.
Our findings show that IPV is a significant issue in conflict affected northern Uganda, and attitudes that normalise and justify IPV are common. Alcohol abuse among young men in northern Uganda is highly prevalent and strongly associated with IPV towards women, as are controlling behaviours exhibited by the male partner. Interventions to reduce alcohol consumption among men in this region are likely to have important benefits in reducing the prevalence of IPV, and attitudes and behaviours that support IPV need to be further understood and addressed. Many women in conflict affected northern Uganda likely have additional risk factors for IPV related to previous exposure to war violence, however this was not directly measured in the present study. Further research into IPV in northern Uganda, and its relationship to exposure to conflict, is greatly needed.