Case study

Overview

A baseline assessment on the social attitudes, relations, and practices of men in relation to gender, and sexual and gender-based violence in Burundi

Tearfund believes that the Church should always be a place where social norms and attitudes can be challenged if they are causing harm. The Bible teaches that all humans should be treated with love and respect and that men and women are created equal in the eyes of God.

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world and is still emerging from a 12-year ethnic-based civil conflict. Many women and girls have experienced SGBV, but there is a lack of reliable data on its prevalence. Yet the majority of Burundians profess the Christian faith and the Church is at the heart of the community. SGBV has taken root in cultural, religious and societal thinking, influencing the behaviour, attitudes and practices of men and women in harmful ways. 

For three years, Tearfund has been working with the local Church to address the issue. They are committed to being a catalyst in ending all forms of SGBV against women and girls, and acknowledge the positive role men and boys can play in restoring society and redeeming manhood. 

During August and September 2013 Tearfund commissioned a study about men, faith and masculinities within five Anglican Church parishes: Rutana, Matana, Ntaho, Bukemba and Timbura. A total of 414 people (219 men and 195 women) were interviewed through 12 group surveys and 20 focus-group discussions.

This case study is based on the Burundi Summary Report from Tearfund

Read more: Men, faith and masculinties: Burundi

Summary of key findings

Despite the research results showing the challenging attitudes upheld by both men and women, most participants were not defensive about their beliefs and expressed a need to change, even when justifying actions that were harmful to their lives. This creates a unique opportunity for the Church to work within communities to transform social norms and influence culture for good. Here are some of the key findings from the research. 

Gendered roles and attitudes 

1. Men and women held strong attitudes on gendered roles, which informed their work, roles and responsibilities within the home and society.

2. Men and boys expressed frustration when they were unable to fulfil the expectations of their families.

3. More than two-thirds of women thought a husband should provide economically for the family.

4. A large percentage of men and women thought that a woman’s primary role was cooking and taking care of the home.

5. The majority of women felt it was a mother’s responsibility to care for the children. But this restricted men in their caregiving role and prevented children from having positive relationships with fathers. 

6. Men and women linked their roles to the creation story in the Bible. They believed that the scriptures taught that a woman was inferior or unequal to a man, especially within marital relationships.

Decision-making and domestic duties

1. Almost 100 per cent of men and women agreed that a woman should obey her husband.

2. Almost two-thirds of men stated that the man should have the final say in all family matters.

3. Women expressed concerns and fears about their husbands abusing alcohol, engaging in extramarital relationships, polygamy and transactional sex, which were corrupting family relationships and impacting finances.

4. Decision making and control were linked to a skewed or partial understanding of scripture, many citing only part of Ephesians 5:23: ‘For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church’, and failing to read the entirety of the scripture which goes on to command man to respect his wife.

5. Attributes expressed in relation to ‘headship’ were of dominance, control and power and violence.

6. Men articulated that the economic power within the home was shifting due to male unemployment, and that women copied the controlling model of headship. 

Violence, manhood and SGBV

1. 97 per cent of men and 95 per cent of women said it is manly to defend the honour of the family, even by violent means.

2. Men expressed the need to discipline their wives when they did something dishonourable or wrong. They linked this to biblical manhood and said that it was important to show this in front of children and the community to maintain respect and control.

3. 89 per cent of men and 93 per cent of women said that if a victim didn’t physically fight back, it wasn’t rape.

4. Women thought that a woman cannot be raped by her husband as they believed her body belonged to him according to the scriptures.

5. A skewed belief that women were inferior, and men were entitled to women as they were created as ‘helpers’, seemed to contribute to harmful practices which lead to different forms of SGBV.

6. A culture of shame and stigma was associated with SGBV and participants focused on the behaviour of the victim rather than the perpetrator – 77 per cent of men and 95 per cent of women were in agreement with the statement: ‘some women ask to be raped by the way they dress and behave.’