Chapter in the Book: Adapting Gender and Development to Local Religious Contexts – A Decolonial Approach to Domestic Violence in Ethiopia by Romina Istratii

Social norms theories have been increasingly employed in the areas of gender and development and public health to explain the continuation of intimate partner violence, but these remain fundamentally bounded by Anglo-American understandings of ‘religion’. This makes them less enlightening in societies that never experienced western secularisation and a separation of public culture from ‘religion’. In the research sites, the religious tradition comprised a comprehensive worldview and a historical memory that defined individual and collective identities, cultivated societal and individual standards of morality and governed vernacular practices. A strict separation between religious and social norms in everyday life could not possibly capture the complex relationships observed in the discourses of the people and their implications for the conjugal relationship in this society. Chapter 8 attempts to reconstruct the religio-cultural cosmology in which the research participants were embedded and to relate this to conjugal abuse and attitudes that are currently allowing its continuation. It presents a spectrum of various positions to convey how research participants related social norms to culture (bahәl) and faith (haymanot). Examining these juxtapositions helps to delineate some of the more subtle mechanisms that could be perpetuating the normative framework, including the potentially more pernicious practice of alcohol consumption at religious gatherings. Simultaneously, it evidences that attitudinal changes have been occurring without antagonising openly the locally authoritative discourse and practice.

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