Dissertation Abstracts

Women's narratives on domestic violence: A study in Mamelodi, South Africa

Author: Mazibuko, Nokuthula NC, mazibnc@unisa.ac.za
Department: Sociology
University: South Africa, South Africa
Supervisor: Prof. SJ Ndlovu-Gatsheni
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: domestic violence , women , patriarchy , power and control
Areas of Research: Women in Society , Theory , Family Research


This study posits that domestic violence against women continues to be widespread and increasing in South Africa, and argues that domestic violence is part of a demonstration of power and control over the powerless by the powerful. The focus of the study is on domestic violence perpetrated on women by their intimate partners. At a broader level, domestic violence is steeped in the inherent dominant patriarchal ideology underpinning South African communities while at the same time revealing the aggravating role of poverty-violence entanglement. It is within this discourse that domestic violence is regarded as a “class problem”. In other words, it is seen as a practice rooted among poor black people living in rural and urban townships. The limit of this poverty-violence nexus is that it does not explain, for example, domestic violence among the middle-class in South African townships.

This is why this thesis specifically focuses on the incidence and perpetration of domestic violence among middle-class women in Mamelodi Township, with the specific focus of creating “awareness” among the communities and it is here that the originality of this thesis is based. This is not to say that Mamelodi Township is a middle-class community. The study was based on 27 in-depth interviews with middle-class women as research participants residing in Mamelodi Township, South Africa, who are survivors/victims of domestic violence relationships. The study also includes 10 key informants including social workers, counsellors, NGO representatives, a principal, a university professor who has a research interest in domestic violence, and two residents of Mamelodi. Key informants were asked about their experiences and perception of domestic violence relationships.

The findings of the study revealed that domestic violence is learned in the private home and is perpetuated to the public community. It was discovered that earlier exposure to domestic violence in one’s family influences the decision to stay in or exit from domestic violence relationships. Women interviewed in the study explained that they encountered domestic violence for the first time through hearing stories and noises which indicated that a woman was being beaten by her partner, and this suggested that domestic violence exists in their community. While domestic violence occurs in Mamelodi Township at the community level, where everyone is aware of it, participants insist that it should be kept private – although the public in most cases do not voice their disapproval of it. This suggests that domestic violence is also learned in the public community and then perpetuated into the private home. Women in this study also lacked the understanding that power and control exerted from men may translate into domestic violence, through their perception that emotional violence is safer than physical violence. These women also blame domestic violence on alcohol, ilobolo, mother-in-law and the practice of witchcraft. Based on the findings established above, it is indisputable that a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach in handling domestic violence must be initiated by all stakeholders.

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