Intimate Partner Violence among Male Couples in South Africa and Namibia

Journal of Family Violence (2020)

Rob Stephenson, Lynae A. Darbes, Tanaka Chavanduka, Zaynab Essack & Heidi van Rooyen


Despite the growing body of evidence demonstrating the high prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) among male couples and the unique antecedents to IPV that male couples may experience, research efforts have focused almost exclusively on North American populations. Missing from the literature is an understanding of the experience of IPV among male couples in African nations where social norms and legal restrictions around same-sex behavior may be more conservative. This paper presents data from an innovative study of male couples (Together Tomorrow) from two Southern African countries characterized by high prevalence of HIV: Namibia and South Africa. A one-time cross-sectional survey was conducted with 140 partnered MSM (70 couples) in Namibia and 300 partnered MSM (150 couples) in KZN, South Africa, for a total sample size of 440 partnered MSM (220 couples). Surveys measured the recent (12 month) experience of physical, sexual and emotional IPV and the experience of sexuality-related stressors. Reporting of IPV was relatively low: 7.3% reported being the victim of IPV from their male partner in the 12 months prior to the survey, and 10.2% reported participating in bi-directional IPV in their relationship in the previous 12 months. Men who reported different experiences of internalized homophobia and external acts of discrimination were more likely to report IPV and bi-directional IPV. The results offer several potential intervention points to disrupt pathways between stigma and IPV for partnered MSM in South Africa and Namibia, and point to the need for services for this critically overlooked population.