• Eirin Førsund
Sexual violence is a prominent problem and obstacle for development in Malawi, as in many other countries. The relationship between culture and sexual violence will be researched to determine possible explanations to sexual violence within the given cultural context. Structures of power relations, traditional features as rituals, performances and ceremonies, and underlying myths and beliefs all will be examined to determine whether: 1. Are there traditionally embedded tolerance of boys and men to pursue girls for sex? And further: 2. How are these embedded sexual messages played out in today’s society? With the latter research question the clash between conflicting cultural values and life-styles is important, and how contemporary Malawians deal with this problematic. The overall aim is to explore how sexual violence can be understood from a cultural perspective. Sexual violence is part of the international development agenda as it touches on topics like women’s empowerment, gender equality, child abuse, etc. Social phenomena, like sexual violence, cannot fully be understood separate from their social context. Culture holds both subjective and objective notions of comprehension, and would therefore give good insight into this specific social problem. On background of three months fieldwork in central Malawi, the aim is to further understand the local notions, experiences and understanding of sexual violence. Malawian contemporary culture is a complex entity of traditions and modern influences, together constituting contemporary Malawian society. In light of a theoretical framework of human sexuality, represented by Freud and Foucault, modern impact on local institutions of sexuality, and Malinowski’s theory of cultural determinism. Further, theories of violence as a socio-economic goal and as an instrument of change will all be utilized to analyse the Malawian reality of sexual violence. Different case studies showed how traditional cultural traits like: the sexual focus during initiation ceremonies, images of girls as sex objects, provocative songs and dances, supernatural beliefs, myths regarding women’s inferiority and myths legitimizing sexual interaction between adults and children, all constitutes to establish the connection between culture and sexual violence. However, it is important to state that this connection is not at all certain; it gives an image of a tendency to inclined sexually violent behaviour. Traditional pressure on men (and women) to perform sexually is a contributing factor. Many sexual offences are based in settings of peer pressure, where young children and youth are involved in play, culminating in sexual violence. Cultural myths, stories, superstition, curiosity, and interest form the basic foundation in perpetuating peer-pressured defilements. Further intensifying this crisis are social issues such as poverty, inter human violence and alcohol consumption, all adding to the national sexual offence statistics. Tradition and myth play a large role in influencing the Malawian and his or her decisions with regards to sex. The result can sometimes be violent. Suppressed traditional knowledge, combined with modern materialism and new values have seen traditional institutions and rituals lose their value progressively over generations, without properly being replaced.
Publication date2008
Publishing institutionIHIS - DIR
ID: 14958848