Intimate partner violence against married and cohabiting women in sub-Saharan Africa: does sexual autonomy matter?

Richard Gyan ABOAGYE*, Louis Kobina DADZIE, Francis ARTHUR-HOLMES, Joshua OKYERE, Ebenezer AGBAGLO, Bright Opoku AHINKORAH, Abdul-Aziz SEIDU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Literature shows that women’s sexual autonomy, which refers to women’s capacity to refuse sex and ask a partner to use condom, has significant implications on the sexual and reproductive health outcomes and sexual-and-gender based violence. Nevertheless, there is scarcity of empirical evidence to support the association between women’s sexual autonomy and intimate partner violence (IPV) in sub-Saharan Africa.

Data for the study were extracted from the recent Demographic and Health Surveys in 24 countries in sub-Saharan Africa between 2010 and 2019. Bivariable and multivariable binary logistic regression analyses were performed to examine the association between sexual autonomy and IPV in all the studied countries. Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05.

The pooled prevalence of IPV and sexual autonomy in the 24 countries were 38.5% and 73.0% respectively. Overall, the odds of exposure to IPV were higher among women with sexual autonomy, compared to those without sexual autonomy even after controlling for covariates (age, level of education, marital status, current working status, place of residence, wealth quintile and media exposure). At the country-level, women from Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Cote d’lvoire, Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Kenya, Comoros, Zambia, and South Africa who had sexual autonomy were more likely to experience IPV whilst those in Burundi were less likely to experience IPV. The study showed that sexual autonomy increases women’s exposure to IPV and this occurred in many countries except Burundi where women with sexual autonomy were less likely to experience IPV.

The findings highlight the need for serious programs and policies to fight against IPV in the sub-region. Additionally, laws need to be passed and implemented, with law enforcement agencies provided with the necessary resources to reduce intimate partner violence among women with sexual autonomy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number79
JournalReproductive Health
Issue number1
Early online date28 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the MEASURE DHS project for their support and for free access to the original data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Kenya
  • Marriage
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Demographic and Health Survey
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Sexual autonomy
  • Sub-Saharan Africa


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