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Key findings
  • Gender-based violence (GBV) joins women’s under-representation in positions of power as the most pressing women’s-rights issues that Mozambicans say their government and society must address.
  • More than half (51%) of citizens say violence against women is a “somewhat common” or “very common” occurrence in their community.
  • A majority (55%) of Mozambicans say it is “never” justified for a man to use physical force to discipline his wife, while 44% think it is “sometimes” or “always” justified.
  • More than half (52%) of respondents consider it “somewhat” or “very” likely that a woman will be criticised or harassed if she reports gender-based violence to the authorities. Only 20% say this is “very unlikely.” o But most (68%) believe that the police are likely to take GBV cases seriously.
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of Mozambicans say domestic violence should be treated as a criminal matter rather than as a private matter to be resolved within the family.

About one-third of Mozambican women experience physical violence, and about half are married before age 18, one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, according to the most recent Demographic and Health Survey (Instituto Nacional de Estatística, 2013). Risks of rape, sexual exploitation, and other gender-based violence (GBV) are particularly high for women and girls displaced by insurgencies in the country’s northern provinces (Spotlight Initiative, 2021; Africanews, 2020; Care, 2020).
Even women who speak out against GBV are not safe: According to the Observatorio da Mulher (Women’s Observatory), women protesting peacefully as part of the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women campaign were manhandled and arrested by police officers (Human Rights Watch, 2023). In another high-profile case, human-rights activist Josina Machel, daughter of former President Samora Machel and rights advocate Graça Machel, lost an eye in an alleged GBV assault (Amnesty International, 2020).
But many cases of GBV are never reported, for reasons ranging from fear of the attacker or of societal rejection to the belief that the authorities won’t take the case seriously, a preference for going through informal channels such as traditional leaders or family members, a lack of literacy skills or information on justice and support systems, and social norms accepting violence as a way of life (Amnesty International, 2021; UNICEF, 2021; Palermo, Bleck, & Peterman, 2014).
The government, international partners, and other non-governmental organisations work to operationalise the country’s legal framework for preventing and punishing GBV and providing care services to survivors, but implementation remains a challenge (UN Women, 2023; Spotlight Initiative, 2021; Jethá, Keygnaert, Martins, Sidat, & Roelens, 2021; Gamariel, 2022).
This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire to explore Mozambicans’ experiences and perceptions of gender-based violence.
Findings show that gender-based violence outranks inequality in the workplace, in education, and in property ownership as an issue that Mozambicans want their government and society to address.
Majorities say that men are “never justified” in using physical force to discipline their wives, that the police take GBV cases seriously, and that domestic violence is a criminal matter rather than a private matter to be resolved within the family.
But more than half of citizens also say that GBV is a common occurrence in their community and that women who report such crimes to the authorities are likely to be criticised, harassed, or shamed by others in the community.

Margaret Eduonoo

Margaret Eduonoo is a PhD student and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Political Science, University of Florida.