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.

Author Biography

Dr Jennifer Glover is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist working in Child and Adolescent mental health services. She qualified from Coventry and Warwick Universities having completed the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and now specialises 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.

Dr Simon Goodman is a Research Fellow at Coventry University. His research uses discursive psychology to address a number of issues including the discursive construction of asylum seekers and refugees. His work focuses on what is, and what is not, considered to be racist particularly with regard to asylum seeking. His other interests include the British public’s understanding of income inequality, the ways in which the far right attempt to present their policies as acceptable and non-racist and political discourse.

Professor Hazel Barrett has a Chair in Development Geography at Coventry university. She has been undertaking research into women’s livelihood options, health and well-being including Harmful Traditional Practices (HTP) in sub-Saharan Africa for over 30 years. Since 2010 she has led the European Commission Daphne III REPLACE Project (replacefgm2.eu) which has undertaken research in five European Union (EU) Member States with different African FGM affected communities to better understand the drivers of, and barriers to, ending the practice of FGM in the EU. The result has been the development of an innovative community-based behaviour change approach and methodology to tackle the social norms that support the continuation of HTPs.