Up to date, Gender Based Violence (GBV) remains one of the most widespread and persistent global issues facing women and girls (Perrin et al., 2019). According to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) 2015 Guidelines for Integrating GBV Interventions in Humanitarian Action, GBV is defined as "any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (i.e., gender) differences between females and males. It includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion, and other deprivations of liberty" and can occur in public and in private (IASC, 2015; Perrin et al., 2019).
GBV greatly affects the lives and well-being of women and girls in Sudan (UNFPA Sudan & CVAW, 2021). According to the latest Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS 2014), around 87% of women aged 15–49 year have undergone Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), 12% were married before the age of 15 and 38% before the age of 18 years (MICS, 2014). Unfortunately, the MICS 2014 did not report any prevalence of gender-based violence in Sudan. It however revealed that, 34% of women aged between 15-49 years justify husbands beating wives (MICS, 2014). Despite these high percentages, very little data is available as openly addressing GBV in Sudan (UNFPA Sudan & CVAW, 2021).
Effective GBV prevention programs seek to address the underlying causes and drivers of GBV (Perrin et al., 2019). Programs are specifically targeting social and gender norms that justify and sustain acceptance of GBV (Perrin et al., 2019). Social norms are contextually and socially derived collective expectations of appropriate behaviors (Bicchieri et al., 2018; Heise, 2011). Gender norms are social norms that shape how men and women perceive themselves, how they behave within relationships, expected roles for men and women in the family and the distribution of power and resources in the household (Bicchieri et al., 2018).
Families and communities have shared beliefs and rules that both proscribe and prescribe behaviors that implicitly convey that GBV against women is acceptable, even normal (Perrin et al., 2019). Those who violate or fail to meet the social and gender norms are likely to experience sanctions or punishment by the group, whereas those who comply may be rewarded (Bicchieri et al., 2018). This study aimed to assess and establish how communities frame, interpret and transmit social norms that promote GBV, and how these interpretations can help in prioritizing domestic violence in design programs, advocacy and approaches to influence policy and practices to combat GBV.