In the context of implementing the National Action Plan for achieving gender equality in 2008-2010, and the joint National Informational Campaign for preventing domestic violence, the Centre of Sociological and Political Research of the Belarusian State University, in cooperation with the United Nations Representative in the Republic of Belarus, conducted a research study in September-November 2008 to assess the situation of domestic violence in the Republic of Belarus.
The goal of this study was to determine the scope, conditions, and causes of the prevalence of aggressive behavior of men and women with regard to their partners.
The information was collected by means of a questionnaire. In the course of the research study, 488 men and 512 women were questioned, with ages ranging from 18 to 60, who had experience of family life in officially registered or civil marriages. For the research study, a multi-stage combined selection was made: the combination of the quota method with route selection. Such a combination provided effective results in studying the opinions of pre-selected groups of the population, in this case men and women of age 18-60. Following the assigned route stands in the way of a subjective selection of respondents, which is characteristic of quota methods. Among the signs that were quoted were gender, age, and place of residence (type of village, size of municipal settlement) of the respondents. The size of the total selected is proportional to the numerical size of the population according to the territory of the Republic of Belarus.
The two main themes of the survey were the extent of domestic violence and the identification of situations involving domestic violence.
EXTENT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
- According to the research results, four out of five women in Belarus aged 18 to 60 are subject to psychological violence in the family, one in four (with varying degrees of frequency) are subject to physical violence, 22.4% of women experience economic violence, and 13.1% experience sexual violence from their husband or permanent partner. Almost one in ten women (8%) underwent physical and sexual violence at home, and one in ten women (9.5%) was subjected to physical violence by her husband/partner during pregnancy. Having experienced physical and sexual violence, only 6% of men and 46.8% of women sought assistance. This includes not only the professional assistance of a psychologist, social service worker, law enforcement agency or health-care provider, but also requests for support and advice from friends, relatives and neighbors. 40% of the women who experienced sexual or physical violence had to leave their homes, attempting to avoid or escape from violence.
- Violence against men: 22.1% of the male respondents admitted that they had been subjected at least once to physical violence by their wife or permanent partner, 12.5% had experienced economic violence, and 5.7% had experienced sexual violence. According to the survey results, 79.7% of men had been subjected to one or another form of psychological violence to some degree.
- Research results indicate that 3.6% of men and 10.3% of women who had suffered from violence were forced to seek assistance in medical institutions. Owing to the violence that they had undergone, 2.4% of men and 9.5% of women temporarily lost the ability to work. Of that group, all the men and only half of the women informed the personnel of medical institutions of the reason for the injury, trauma or the mutilation that they had received.
- Income level was seen to have a significant influence with regards acts of violence against men and women. With a higher economic level, the incidence of various forms of violence against both men and women decreases. Thus, one in three low-income women stated that they had been subjected to beatings, against only 5% among the women with higher income. In the low-income group, 76.5% of men and 75.9% of women mentioned having experienced verbal insults, while among the higher-income group, this form of violence also existed, but to a significantly lesser extent - 54.7% of men and 60.5% of women were subjected to abusive language and swearing.
- The survey results also indicated that young women from 18 to 29 years of age were subjected to physical or sexual violence two times less often than the older women and were less frequently denied money or forbidden to work or study. Women of all ages were equally subjected to verbal forms of aggression. The highest level of victimization was found among women aged 30 to 39.
- Families exert a large influence on stereotypes relating to family behavior. According to the survey results, 17.8% of women and 16.9% of men were brought up in incomplete families, either with a stepfather or in a family headed by a grandmother or another relative, or in a State foster home. More than a quarter of the women surveyed (27.9%) and a quarter of the men (24.8%) who had been raised in a complete family had witnessed parental quarrels involving the use of physical force.
Among the female respondents who had observed scenes of violence in a parental family, 32.9% had been subjected to physical forms of violence by marital partners (as opposed to 18.1% of female respondents who had not witnessed parental quarrels and arguments); 17.5% to sexual violence (as opposed to 9.7% who had not witnessed scenes of violence between parents); and 30.1% to economic violence (as opposed to 18.4%).
Furthermore, in the course of the data analysis, a definite link was established between physical violence experienced in childhood and susceptibility to committing acts of violence in one's own family. During childhood, 14.1% of men and 12.5% of women had been subjected to physical violence. It should also be noted that, among the women who had experienced physically violent acts in childhood, 37.5% of respondents were subjected to physical violence by their marital partners and 21.9% to sexual violence, while among those who had not experienced physical punishment in childhood the figures are noticeably lower (22.4% and 11.7% respectively).
IDENTIFICATION OF SITUATIONS INVOLVING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
- The survey revealed different assessments in the recognition of psychological actions. While threats, acts of intimidation and restrictions on personal freedom were viewed as violence by more than half of the respondents in each of the groups (both men and women), interference in personal matters, verbal abuse such as coarse language and swearing were considered violence by only about a third.
- A close link was found between educational level, economic situation and the ability to identify violence in its various manifestations. Thus, respondents who had a higher level of education and economic prosperity more often identified all the types of violence comparing to those who had a lower level of education and income. The contrast was particularly obvious in determining types of psychological violence such as abusive language and swearing and threats and intimidation. The clearest distinction was found in the responses of men with different levels of education and income: abusive language and swearing were considered forms of violence by 25.2% cent of men from the group with an incomplete or complete secondary education, by 31.3% of men with a secondary specialized education and by 36% of men with a higher education. Threats and intimidation were identified as violent acts by 49.5% of men from the lower-education group, by 55% of respondents with a secondary specialized education, and by 71.9% of men with a higher education.
- Actions of an economic nature were evaluated differently according to the educational level of the men: refusing to provide money for essential items was violence in the opinion of 53.7% of men with an incomplete or complete secondary education and 71.9% of those with a higher education. Forbidding work or study was considered violence by 41.7% of men with a lower level of education and by 54.7% of those with a higher level. It should be noted that the differences in the responses of women with different educational and economic levels were not so considerable.
- The research tools employed make a comparison possible with the results of the 2002 sociological study "Level of public awareness relating to domestic violence and sexual harassment in the place of work/study with regard to women/girls, and its extent, forms and effects", since both studies were carried out on the basis of a representative national sampling.
Thus, there were practically no substantial changes regarding the identification of the various forms of violence in the six years that separated the two studies.
- According to the 2008 research, all types of physical and economic violence were identified more frequently than in 2002, particularly types of economic violence such as refusing to provide money for essential items and grievous types of physical violence.
Response of the Government of Belarus to the questionnaire on violence against women, February 2009