Gender, women and health

Violence against women by intimate partners

Controlling behaviour

Men who physically abuse their partners also exhibit higher rates of controlling behaviour than men who do not (3,15). The WHO Study defined controlling behaviour by a woman’s partner as including:

  • keeping her from seeing friends;
  • restricting contact with her family of birth;
  • insisting on knowing where she is at all times;
  • ignoring or treating her indifferently;
  • getting angry if she speaks with other men;
  • often accusing her of being unfaithful;
  • controlling her access to health care.

The proportion of women reporting one or more of these behaviours by their partner varied from a low of 21% in Japan to almost 90% in urban United Republic of Tanzania. This suggests a great variation in the degree to which such behaviour is acceptable (normative) in different cultures.

Significantly, the WHO Study data reveal that, in all sites, the experience of physical or sexual violence, or both, tends to be accompanied by more controlling behaviour by an intimate partner.