Background:Harmful traditional practices (HTPs) are deeply entrenched behaviours or actions that violate the human rights of affected individuals. They have negative consequences on the physical and psychological health, social rights and political equality of affected individuals and their communities. Despite legislation making HTPs illegal in many countries, these practices continue today, causing considerable health risks to women and girls. Whilst studies have sought to understand factors perpetuating different HTPs, a paucity of reviews synthesises these findings. Aims: The aim of this review is to consider son preference, female genital mutilation, and child marriage in relation to their persistence, including the underlying and other factors that facilitate resistance and control mechanisms. Method: Using PRISMA guidelines, a systematic literature review of 21 research studies. Results: Women of practising communities identified educational status of women, residential location, economic status, and a family history of practising HTPs as socio-economic factors perpetuating HTPs. Negative physical health consequences and women’s autonomy were identified as facilitating resistance to HTPs, whilst religion and patriarchy were identified as mechanisms that prevented resistance to HTPs. Policy implications are considered.

Note on the Author

Dr. Jennifer Glover is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist working in Child and Adolescent mental health services. She has recently qualified from Coventry and Warwick Universities where she now guest lectures on the topic of gender based violence. She has previous publications in the areas of learning disability and older adult psychology. She has a particular interest in carrying out research with survivors of sexual violence and torture.

Dr. Helen Liebling is a Senior Lecturer-Practitioner in Clinical Psychology at Coventry University. Helen has been carrying out research with survivors of conflict and post-conflict sexual violence and torture in Africa and refugees in the UK since 1998. Helen’s book publications include ‘Ugandan Women War Survivors’ (Liebling-Kalifani, 2009) and ‘Justice and Health Provision for Survivors of Sexual Violence’ (Liebling & Baker, 2010). Helen is part of the Tearfund steering group on faith based organisations role in gender-based violence prevention.