This guest post is part of the blog party we're hosting to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign. It's the 7th post in a series of 16 posts by Moira Richards, published in the Red Room, Book SA and the Shukumisa web site.
It is easier for an HIV positive man to pass the virus onto a woman during sexual intercourse than it is for an infected woman to pass it onto a man. This is due to various biological factors that I won't discuss here. Besides this biological susceptibility, there are a number of social and cultural factors that make it even more difficult for women to escape the deadly virus. I've counted ten factors that I've listed below, but maybe you'll come up with more...
1 MALE POWER - Usually it is the man who initiates sexual encounters in a relationship. The woman might get to say Yes or No, but rarely does she feel empowered to negotiate safe sexual practice. Not many a woman is able to sit her prospective lover down and negotiate with him the use of condoms, a monogamous relationship, or HIV screening before they first slide into bed together.
2. PROTECTIVE DEVICES - A female condom is one that a woman can wear to protect herself from sexually transmitted diseases. Unfortunately, they are neither as cheap nor as readily available as male condoms. There is also relatively little information disseminated to women to publicise the existence and the life-saving capabilities of female condoms, or of the other protective measures that might reduce their risks of infection.
3. PARENTAL POWER - Many cultures expect unmarried girls to be ignorant of sexual matters, and often allow a girl's parents to decide whom she must marry. This means that these young girls don't know about the HIV/AIDS risks that their husbands may bring to them. They are also unable to choose for themselves, a mate that they can trust not to infect them.
4. SLAVERY - Sometimes girls are sold by their families into sexual slavery. They must then have sex with whoever their 'owner' orders them to have sex with. No chance here for them to insist on safe sexual practice.
5. ECONOMIC - Many, many women have to turn to prostitution so that they can earn money to eat. Their poverty is so dire that they are hardly in a position to insist that their clients use a condom. If they do, they are likely to lose the client to a competitor. Sometimes a client will offer to pay a prostitute more for unprotected sex and so the women are enticed by money to take life-threatening risks.
6. RAPE - Our world's atrociously high incidence of female rape exposes women more and more to HIV infection, as well as to the trauma of rape.
7. CHILD ABUSE - As HIV/AIDS becomes more and more of a risk to sexually active
men so does their demand for virginal young women and girls who present no risk to them, increase. This means that very young girls are targeted as the victims of men who travel on sex holidays.
Little girls, toddlers and babies even, are often raped by HIV positive men in some countries because the myth abounds that they can cleanse themselves of the virus if they have sex with a virgin.
8. INSTITUTIONAL POWER - Various sites on the internet store articles that deal with the sexual abuse of nuns by the Catholic priests. Relevant to this article is the argument of some of these guilty priests. They say they need to obtain sexual favours from the nuns because otherwise they will be obliged to have sex with the local village girls and risk contracting HIV/AIDS from them. Therefore, it is much safer for the priests to use the nuns to satisfy their sexual needs.
9 FGM - Female Genital Mutilation has its own story of tragic repercussions, and not least among them is the increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS that its victims suffer. These operations are often performed under primitive surgical conditions and a whole groups of teenage girls are circumcised together. Rarely is the piece of metal or glass used, sterile. Great are the chances that the bloodied knife that cuts one HIV positive lass, will be used again immediately, on the one lying next to her, and on the one next to her too...
Often, the genital mutilation is of such a nature that the girls bruise and bleed every time they have sex thereafter. These types of open wounds in the genital area will increase significantly their chances of contracting the HIV virus from an infected partner.
10. SPOUSAL PROMISCUITY - In many cultures, women are expected to be virginal before marriage and to have no other lover than their husband after they have married. In these same cultures, it is also usually acceptable for men, both single and married, to be sexually promiscuous. Therefore, even a woman who lives a sheltered and monogamous life, will be at risk of infection from her husband. Perhaps she can only pray that he practices safe sex outside the marriage, or perhaps she is just blissfully unaware of his infidelity.
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Follow the campaign:
Day 8: http://www.shukumisa.org.za/
Damaria Senne’s Blog Party: http://damariasenne.blogspot.com/
Day 6: http://moirarichards.book.co.za/blog/2010/11/30/day-6/