With the focus on Women during August, the demonstrations in Cape Town at the same time as the WEF conference on Africa and the attention in the media the last few weeks on incidents of gender-based violence, Ipsos examines the diverse opinions that South Africans have towards issues of women’s place in marital relations as well as violence towards women.

The relationship between a woman and her husband/partner is the closest and most trusted that a woman should have in her life.

So, how do South Africans feel about the dynamics between man and wife and is it necessary for a woman to “obey” her partner or husband?

There is very little difference in the country about this issue, with the majority – more than six in every ten (63%) – believing that a woman should obey her husband or partner. This illustrates a deep-seated paternalism and conservative view in our society, seeing a woman as a possession rather than an individual in her own right.

There is not a significant difference in female and male opinions on the issue – but slightly more females than males agree with the statement.

 

I believe that a woman must obey her partner or husband – Sex

 

  Total % Male % Female  %
Agree 63 62 64
Neither 16 14 18
Disagree 14 14 14
DK 7 10 4

Younger people are slightly less likely to agree, with 51% of the 15 – 17 year old population agreeing with this, compared to higher proportions of older people.

 

I believe that a woman must obey her partner or husband – Age

 

 
  Total

%

15-17 % 18-24 % 25-34 % 35-49 % 50+ %
Agree 63 51 61 64 65 63
Neither 16 10 17 16 16 15
Disagree 14 9 14 15 14 13
DK 7 30 8 5 5 9

 

Looking at the opinions held by different population groups, whites and Indians are also less likely to agree, but overall agreement is still very high.

I believe that a woman must obey her partner or husband – Age

 

   
  Total

%

Black

%

White

%

Coloured

%

Indian

%

Agree 63 65 55 61 58
Neither 16 15 21 17 16
Disagree 14 13 15 19 23
DK 7 7 9 3 3

 

Social norms and community values are important when looking at why these opinions still pervade and to this end, Ipsos also explored the opinions of partners, family and the community.

 

 

My partner believes that a woman must obey her partner or husband

 

  Total Males Females
Agree 62 61 63
Neither 16 14 17
Disagree 14 14 14
DK 8 11 6

 

 

 

My family believes that a woman must obey her partner or husband

 

  Total Males Females
Agree 63 63 63
Neither 15 14 16
Disagree 13 12 14
DK 9 11 7

 

My community believes that a woman must obey her partner or husband

 

  Total Males Females
Agree 57 57 58
Neither 16 15 16
Disagree 15 15 15
DK 12 13 11

 

With the high incidence of domestic violence and abuse happening in our society, Ipsos has also examined South African opinions about whether husbands have the right to physically attack his partner.

The majority (78%) do not agree with this opinion! Levels of disagreement are highest when thinking about themselves as individuals but decrease when it comes to their opinion of what the community thinks.

However, the levels of agreement that physical abuse is acceptable are still alarmingly high and at least one in every ten South Africans find this acceptable.  Is it then strange that physical abuse of women is so prevalent in our country?

 

  Agree Neither Disagree Don’t know
I believe that a man has the right to hit his partner or wife 12 7 78 5
My partner believes that a man has the right to hit his partner or wife 10 7 77 6
My family believes that a man has the right to hit his partner or wife 11 6 77 6
 

My community believes that a man has the right to hit his partner or wife

 

12 8 73 7