Intimate partner violence (IPV) is widespread and accepted in Malawi (Chakwana 2004). To figure out how a country can fight against intimate partner violence it is important to discover the causes behind the problem so policymakers and program planners could know where to draw their attention (Heise, Ellsberg and Gottemoeller 1999). The aim of the present study was to explore more of the reasons behind intimate partner violence in Malawi, and how the gender order is associated to IPV. Gender order is not a measurable variable, but a system that structures women and men into power relationship (Jalmert 2006). It structures the power relations between genders and tells what could be expected, allowed and encouraged in relation to what women and men might do in different contexts (Hannan 2006). To investigate this association, it was focused on variables that could disclose information on women's power in relation to their husbands, and whether it was possible to find less or more violence among empowered women and/or women who act in line with the expected patriarchal norms and roles. For this purpose, data material from the Malawian Demographic and Health survey 2004 (MDHS) was used. To capture a realistic picture of IPV in Malawi this study has concentrated on woman's physical, emotional and sexual violence by a current husband last 12 months preceding the survey.
The present study shows that intimate partner violence among married women is a common practice in Malawi, 22, 9% experienced partner violence 12 months preceding the survey. The gender order in Malawi influences the prevalence of IPV to a great extent, and could be helpful when IPV is understood within the Malawian context. In Malawi, the gender relations are structured around male domination which gives the man right to control "his wife", which further legitimate IPV. More than the majority of the interviewed women had a controlling husband, and such behaviour turned out to be strongly associated with IPV. Also, women who justify wife beating were at a higher risk of IPV. Sociologists have argued that intimate partner violence is widespread where violence is socially accepted (Barnett, Miller-Perrin and Perrin 2005), that is also the case in Malawi. Those women who justify wife beating are at a higher risk of IPV, violence often becomes "invisible" if it is not recognized as a problem.
The gender order in Malawi gives men the right to control their women and the right of being superior. When Malawian women transgress this structure by gaining more power (through education and income) or refuse cultural norms, the risk of IPV increases. This is in line with feminist arguments- violence becomes a method to maintain social control over "their" women. Transgression of gender norms can "trigger" a crisis of male identity, and violence may be the man's response to regain power. This shows that IPV is not just an expression of male dominance over women, but also rooted in male vulnerability where social expectations of manhood are unachievable.