Correcting an Erring Wife Is Normal”: Moral Discourses of Spousal Violence in Ghana

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Adjei, S Baffour
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This study draws insights from discursive psychology to explore moral discourses of spousal violence in Ghana. In particular, it investigates how sociocultural norms and practices are invoked in talk of perpetrators and victims as moral warrants for husband-to-wife abuse in Ghana. Semi structured focus group and personal interviews were conducted with a total of 40 participants: 16 victims, 16 perpetrators, and eight key informants from rural and urban Ghana. Participants’ discursive accounts suggest that husbands have implicit moral right and obligation to punish their wives for disobedience and other infractions against male authority in marriage. Both perpetrators and victims build their talk around familiar normative discourses and practices that provide tacit support for spousal violence in Ghana. While perpetrators mobilize culturally resonant and normative repertoires to justify abuse, blame their victims, and manage their moral accountability; victims position husband-to-wife abuse as normal, legitimate, disciplinary, and corrective. These moral discourses of spousal violence apparently serve to relieve perpetrators of moral agency; prime battered women to accept abuse; and devastate their agency to leave abusive marital relationships. The findings contribute to our understanding of how cultural and social norms of spousal violence are morally constituted, reproduced, and sustained in talk of perpetrators, victims, and other key members of society.
Adjei, S. B. (2018). “Correcting an erring wife is normal”: Moral discourses of spousal violence in Ghana. Journal of interpersonal violence, 33(12), 1871-1892.