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South Africans weigh in on attitudes towards women

With the focus on women during August, the demonstrations in Cape Town at the same time as the WEF conference on Africa and the attention in the media the last few weeks on incidents of gender-based violence, Ipsos examines the diverse opinions that South Africans have towards issues of women's place in marital relations as well as violence towards women.
The relationship between a woman and her husband/partner is the closest and most trusted that a woman should have in her life.

So, how do South Africans feel about the dynamics between man and wife and is it necessary for a woman to “obey” her partner or husband?

There is very little difference in the country about this issue, with the majority - more than six in every ten (63%) - believing that a woman should obey her husband or partner. This illustrates a deep-seated paternalism and conservative view in our society, seeing a woman as a possession rather than an individual in her own right.

There is not a significant difference in female and male opinions on the issue – but slightly more females than males agree with the statement.


Younger people are slightly less likely to agree, with 51% of the 15 - 17 year old population agreeing with this, compared to higher proportions of older people.


Looking at the opinions held by different population groups, whites and Indians are also less likely to agree, but overall agreement is still very high.


Social norms and community values are important when looking at why these opinions still pervade and to this end, Ipsos also explored the opinions of partners, family and the community.


With the high incidence of domestic violence and abuse happening in our society, Ipsos has also examined South African opinions about whether husbands have the right to physically attack his partner.

The majority (78%) do not agree with this opinion! Levels of disagreement are highest when thinking about themselves as individuals but decrease when it comes to their opinion of what the community thinks.

However, the levels of agreement that physical abuse is acceptable are still alarmingly high and at least one in every ten South Africans find this acceptable. Is it then strange that physical abuse of women is so prevalent in our country?


Technical detail
  • Fieldwork: 22 March – 17 April 2019
  • 3,600 in-home face-to-face interviews. Conducted in home languages of randomly selected respondents.
  • Countrywide representation.
  • Results weighted and projected to official population figures.
  • The margin of error for this study is between 0.75% and 1.65%, depending on sample size, response rate and sampling methodology.


About Ipsos

Ipsos is the third-largest market research company in the world, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. Our 75 business solutions are based on primary data coming from our surveys, social media monitoring, and qualitative or observational techniques.

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Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).
ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP
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