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The Language of Love. Tanzanian Women Discuss Intimacy, Sexuality and Violence in the 21 st Century. July 21, 2010. 1. INTRODUCTION. Globally 1 in 3 women will experience some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime (Andersson et al, 2007)

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the language of love
The Language of Love
  • Tanzanian Women Discuss Intimacy, Sexuality and Violence in the 21st Century

July 21, 2010



Globally 1 in 3 women will experience some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime (Andersson et al, 2007)

  • Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence experienced by women
  • In Tanzania 41% of women in Dar es Salaam and 56% of women in the Mbeya District reported experiencing physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner (WHO, 2005)
  • Efforts to respond to gender based violence in the public sphere may be inadequate because women and men may consider intimate partner violence to be a private issue


study design questions

1. What types of physical and sexual encounters do women consider violent?

2. How and when are cultural norms regarding male-female sexual relationships introduced to women?

3. How do women conceptualize and contextualize “gender equality” in their own lives?


finding 1 contexts of violence
FINDING 1: Contexts of Violence

Many women said they expected to experience some amount of force or coercion in sexual relationships, and that this force was not always considered violent.

Severity of resulting injury was used to categorize an incident as either “violent” or as “normal.”


finding 2 learning sexuality
FINDING 2: Learning sexuality
  • When women talk about sexual agency, desire and respect they use proverbs and allegories
  • A taboo exists between mothers and daughters towards speaking about sex and sexuality
  • These proverbs were most often inherited from/learned from grandmothers and other female elders



FINDING: Towards and away from gender equality

  • Gender equality is articulated alternately as:

1. A goal which government should be working towards

2. An aspect of social change that is interfering with existing culture and family structure

  • Women prioritized the achievement of gender equity in the public sphere: education and economic equity


Equality in the private sphere - at the household level


finding towards and away from gender equality
FINDING: Towards and away from gender equality

“These… rights of women, the privileges of women… these things did not exist in the past - the time when my mother, my grandmother lived....For sure, the life of my grandmother was good....They had no quarrels about other women, or fighting or about marriages breaking up, abandoning children… these things were not possible. But today, we see the way marriages are breaking up, the way people get married today and tomorrow they break up, so you find that our rights are increasingly [leading to] the deterioration of our lives.”


conclusion discussion
  • There are many different definitions of what constitutes violence against women in Tanzania, and these may be inconsistent with international definitions
  • Women can perpetuate gender norms that support gender inequality
  • There are several informal points of education (potential opportunities for intervention), at which women learn female sexuality and “ideal” sexual roles, from female elders
  • Women lack a vocabulary in which to articulate female sexuality and sexual agency, and this may impact the quality of couple relationships and the tolerance of violence
  • “Gender equality” is accepted by women in the public sphere, and less so in the private sphere





Michaela Leslie-Rule, BFA, MPA, MPH

Acknowledgements: Eric Ramirez-Ferrero PhD, Andrew Levack MPH, Juliana Bwire Mwima, Tumaini Hope Kiyola, Mudaheranwa Godefroid and Dan Larson