Intimate Partner Violence Among Refugee Women in Rwanda: An Exploration of Risk and Protective Factors

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Johns Hopkins University
Background: Displacement and relocation to refugee camps can increase risk for intimate-partner violence (IPV) by disrupting existing relationship patterns and gender dynamics as humanitarian agencies take on the role of ‘provider’. Women’s risk for IPV in refugee camps may also be shaped by factors such as exposure to non-partner violence. Methods: We carried out a cross-sectional study of partnered refugee women (n=1,073) aged 18-45 in Kigeme camp, Rwanda and aimed to explore whether exposure to violence from sources other than the woman’s intimate partner, changing gender dynamics, relationship power, men’s harmful construction of masculinity, and material stressors are associated with exposure to IPV. Results: Overall, 35.88% had experienced at least one type of IPV in the past six months. Adjusted multivariate analyses found increased odds of IPV among those who had witnessed inter-parental IPV as a child (AOR: 2.02; 95% CI: 1.49-2.73); experienced non-partner violence in the past six months (AOR: 4.07; 95% CI: 2.42-6.85); used any method of contraception (AOR: 1.69; 95% CI: 1.27-2.24); were in households where the woman was employed and the partner was not compared to households where just the partner was employed (AOR: 2.02; 95%CI: 1.16-3.49); and were at greater risk of food insecurity (AOR: 1.04; 95% CI: 1.00-1.08). Lower odds of IPV were seen in those using clean cooking systems compared to households that did not (AOR:0.71; 95% CI: 0.51-0.97). Women whose partner had multiple partners (AOR: 2.29; 95% CI: 1.69-3.09) and women who had partners that consumed alcohol (AOR: 2.71; 95% CI: 2.02-3.64) had greater odds of having experienced IPV. These partner related characteristics, psychological distress (AOR: 6.04; 95% CI: 3.53-10.34) and attitudes supportive of sexual IPV (AOR: 1.93; 95% CI: 1.25-2.97) were associated with being more likely to belong to the high IPV-high decision-making agency group as compared to the low IPV-high decision-making agency group. Conclusion: The study highlights the risk posed by changing gender dynamics, men’s exertion of harmful forms of masculinity, socio-economic stressors, non-partner violence and past exposure to violence. It also highlights the need to consider how resources such as clean cookstoves and fuels can impact IPV and vice-versa.
intimate partner violence, violence against women, domestic violence, clean cooking, refugee, humanitarian health