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Attitudes to and perceptions of domestic violence against women in an Arab community: a case study of Libyan migrants in the UK

Elabani, Suaad M (2015) Attitudes to and perceptions of domestic violence against women in an Arab community: a case study of Libyan migrants in the UK. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This study comprises an analysis of the attitudes and perceptions of Libyan migrants in the UK concerning domestic violence against women (DVAW). It is exploratory as well as explanatory in nature and is one of very few studies of gender violence with regard to Libya or Libyan migrant communities to date. It aims to understand how cultural, religious and social factors can interact, leading to women’s subordination. The research, on which the study is based, consists of a questionnaire survey administered to a sample of 175 migrants (108 women and 67 men) mainly in Greater Manchester as well as in Leeds. Twenty semi-structured interviews were carried out with 13 women and 7 men: these enabled deeper insight into respondents’ frames of reference, opinions and understandings. The topics explored in the survey and the semi-structured interviews included definitions and conceptions of DVAW; perceptions of causes of DVAW [for instance economic deprivation or control, or general social attitudes, or socialisation processes]; justifications given for DVAW; perceptions of the prevalence of DVAW, and the impact of migration to the UK on attitudes towards DVAW. Various socio-demographic factors were tested in the survey sample to ascertain how important these independent variables were in shaping expressed attitudes. Of these, gender and educational levels were the most important, as well as previous residence in Libya (e.g. large cities vs. small towns). In the semi-structured interviews gender differences in attitudes toward violence also emerged, as well as a general tendency to perceive violence as a private matter. The study took a feminist standpoint, arguing that explanations of DVAW should centre on gendered social arrangements and power. It used both analysis of patriarchal systems and the idea of ‘gender order’ as frames for analysis, finding that DVAW draws upon household and wider power and control. Gendered power relations in Libyan communities are structured by the premise of male domination in micro and macro levels. One of the findings of the study is that migration to and length of time spent in the UK has not substantially altered attitudes to DVAW among migrants, although women’s attitudes have shifted more than men’s, particularly among better-educated, urban and divorced women. This points to the persistence of systems of gender subordination within Libyan families and communities.

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