Individual and contextual determinants of gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the role of armed conflict
Researchers and policy makers largely focus on gender-based violence (GBV) in eastern Congo’s conflict zones, leaving the remainder of the vast country understudied. Few in-depth studies exist regarding the nature and dynamics of gender-based violence that occurs in non-conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or on a regular basis within households of eastern DRC. This study uses the 2014 DRC Demographic Health Survey (DHS) data to explore the key factors that are associated with all forms of violence against women and girls in the DRC and takes a more refined look at the association between conflict and GBV than any other empirical study to date. By using a multilevel modeling approach, the research examines key risk factors at the individual, community and province level that influence a woman’s exposure or not to physical and sexual violence in the DRC. By developing and including variables that quantify social norms and attitudes as well as spatially joining data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Database, the study analyzes the role of individual and contextual factors and the relationship between gender-based violence and conflict. Findings highlight that a woman’s experience of intergenerational violence and patriarchal norms at the individual and community levels are among the strongest predictors of GBV in the DRC, and that intimate partner violence (IPV) is the most prevalent form of GBV, even in areas of conflict. Surprising results show that a woman is less likely to experience GBV in areas of higher armed conflict – even when considering non-husband violence. The results do not show higher levels of IPV in areas that experience higher instances of violent conflict, contradicting studies conducted in other contexts. One of the most striking results of this study is the significant and consistent role that community-level variables play in the models -- demonstrating the valuable contribution of multilevel analysis and use of contextual variables. This study underscores how critical the use of “neighborhood” variables is to understanding GBV risks and validates the use of the ecological theoretical framework, moving beyond only individual risk factors to explain GBV in the DRC context.