Challenging cultural practices that expose women to HIV and Aids.
The Women's Leadership Centre conducted a number of writing workshops with women living with and affected by HIV HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), either of two closely related retroviruses that invade T-helper lymphocytes and are responsible for AIDS. There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is responsible for the vast majority of AIDS in the United States. and Aids in 2005, in preparation for the forthcoming second anthology of writings by Namibian women.
Our discussions focused on the ways in which gender-based violence, poverty and specific cultural practices make women and girls vulnerable to infection with HIV.
Participants from across the country told, dramatised and wrote down their stories, many of which focused on the issues that are summarised below. The workshops deepened our collective understanding of the urgent need for women and girls to challenge, resist and transform cultural practices that not only deny us our rights to equality, dignity, personal autonomy and choice, but expose us to the life-threatening virus that leads to Aids.
Various forms of 'marriage' endanger girls and women
Child marriages, arranged marriages and forced marriages are still prevalent in some of our communities, and put girls and women at risk of HIV infection. Young women are given away to uncles and cousins, usually men who are much older than themselves. The young women do not have a choice; parents and other family or clan members decide to whom they will be given into marriage, with the aim of keeping the wealth in the extended family. Some women are forced to marry their deceased sister's husband. Widows are sometimes forced to marry their brother-in-law or another relative of their deceased husband; again to keep the wealth within the extended family. As long as these forms of forced marriages persist, Namibian women's rights The effort to secure equal rights for women and to remove gender discrimination from laws, institutions, and behavioral patterns.
The women's rights movement began in the nineteenth century with the demand by some women reformers for the right to vote, known as suffrage, and are violated and they cannot protect themselves from HIV and Aids.
Without marriage a woman is nothing
Girls and women are taught that marriage is the only way through which a female can gain status in her community. Marriage is considered to be a "safe haven 1. Designated area(s) to which noncombatants of the United States Government's responsibility and commercial vehicles and materiel may be evacuated during a domestic or other valid emergency.
2. " where partners are supposedly faithful to each other. However, one group of women who are severely affected by HIV and Aids is young married women. We have to educate our girls that marriage is an option, a choice and not a must, and that both as single and as married women they have sexual rights, that is the right not to be raped, the right to choose contraceptive methods and the right to demand the use of condoms by their partner or husband.
Without a child a woman is nothing
Women have to prove their fertility at all costs in many of our communities. Men pressurise Verb 1. pressurise - increase the pressure on a gas or liquid
alter, change, modify - cause to change; make different; cause a transformation; "The advent of the automobile may have altered the growth pattern of the city"; "The women to have children, and women bow to the pressure in the hope that the father of their child will marry them. The pressure to have a child is so great that women who are living with HIV and who already have children become pregnant to prove that they are not ill and to prove their womanhood wom·an·hood
1. The state or time of being a woman.
2. The composite of qualities thought to be appropriate to or representative of women.
3. . We have to educate our girls and women that becoming pregnant means risking HIV infection through unprotected sex Unprotected sex refers to any act of sexual intercourse in which the participants use no form of barrier contraception. Sexually transmitted infections
Specifically, unprotected sex . Having a child is an option, a choice, not a must; and adoption of children is another option.
Sexual violations of women and girls
Incest and sexual abuse of girl children by brothers and other males in the family still continue unabated un·a·bat·ed
Sustaining an original intensity or maintaining full force with no decrease: an unabated windstorm; a battle fought with unabated violence. in many Namibian families. There is a culture of silence around this issue that protects the perpetrators.
In some communities, sexual cleansing rituals are enforced. After the death of a husband, a widow has to be cleansed cleanse
tr.v. cleansed, cleans·ing, cleans·es
To free from dirt, defilement, or guilt; purge or clean.
[Middle English clensen, from Old English by having sexual intercourse sexual intercourse
or coitus or copulation
Act in which the male reproductive organ enters the female reproductive tract (see reproductive system). with a man chosen by the family. If she refuses she is accused of bringing bad luck to the family. It has happened that women have become pregnant and contracted HIV through this practice, which fuels the Aids pandemic Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has led to the deaths of more than 25 million people since it was first recognized in 1981, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. .
The practice of 'dry sex', in which women use herbs to dry out the vagina and thereby enhance the sexual pleasure of men, leads to the tearing of the wall of vagina and exposes women further to infection with HIV.
Silence and obedience put women at risk of HIV and Aids
A 'good marriageable mar·riage·a·ble
Suitable for marriage: of marriageable age.
mar woman' is believed to be silent, obedient and shy. Our girls are raised not to challenge and demand but to obey. This is further reinforced by different religions that teach women to obey their husbands at all costs.
What is a Namibian women's chance to survive the Aids pandemic? Discussions of sex are seen as dirty and taboo and men are seen as the ones who are supposed to take the initiative in sexual matters. How can women and girls confront boys and men in such situations?
Moreover, divorce is out of the question for many women, who have to endure domestic violence, including the violation of becoming infected by a promiscuous husband 'until death do us part.'
Practices of worshipping men and enslaving women
In some communities women have to kneel before husbands and other males, for example when they are serving them food. We call this practice 'enforced worshipping of men and enslavement en·slave
tr.v. en·slaved, en·slav·ing, en·slaves
To make into or as if into a slave.
en·slavement n. of women'. There is a need to debate the meanings of this practice and the effect that it has on women and girls in terms of their dignity, humanity and equality.
Celebration of male promiscuity Promiscuity
See also Profligacy.
constantly flits from one girl to another. [Aust. Drama: Schnitzler Anatol in Benét, 33]
promiscuous goddess of sensual love. [Gk. Myth. puts women at risk
Many Namibian cultures accept, encourage and celebrate men's promiscuity. The belief is that the more women a man has had sex with, the more popular and manly he is. To have multiple relationships or be in a polygamous polygamous
as a male or female, having more than one mate. marriage is seen as a man's right. The HIV prevention slogan "be faithful" is thus not working for thousands of Namibian couples. We need new messages of manhood that celebrate and nurture life, not death.
Traditional healing practices spread HIV
Some traditional healers 'treat' women and young women through having sexual intercourse with them to 'cure' infertility and back pains. Whole families have contracted HIV through the use of the same razor blade ra·zor·blade also ra·zor blade
A thin sharp-edged piece of steel that can be fitted into a razor.
razor blade n → hoja de afeitar
razor blade on everyone. Some traditional healers encourage men to have sex with babies and virginal virginal, musical instrument: see spinet.
Small rectangular harpsichord with a single set of strings and a single manual. The derivation of its name is uncertain. young girls to cure themselves from HIV and Aids.
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At the end of the last workshop we held a press conference, at which we called on our government to undertake comprehensive research on harmful cultural practices and beliefs in all Namibian ethnic groups to break the silence and the condoning of such practices and beliefs. This should be followed by law reform and educational campaigns to end these practices in order for women and girls in Namibia not only to enjoy their dignity, rights and freedoms as human beings, but as a matter of sheer survival in face of the Aids pandemic.
We further called on the Ministry of Education to include issues of women's rights and gender equality in all aspects of the curriculum, and to develop and implement gender policies in schools and other institutions of learning in order to protect the rights and save the lives of young women and girls.
We called on all the churches to stop teachings of male worshipping, in which total obedience to male power is enforced through marriage vows Marriage vows are promises a couple makes to each other during a wedding ceremony.
Civil ceremonies often allow couple's to choose their own vows, although many civil marriage vows are adapted from the traditional Catholic wedding vow "To have and to hold, from this day ; and instead to teach a religion of equality that will save lives.
Finally, we called on all women and girls in Namibia to take our own lives into our own hands, to know that we are full human beings with full human dignity Human dignity is an expression that can be used as a moral concept or as a legal term. Sometimes it means no more than that human beings should not be treated as objects. Beyond this, it is meant to convey an idea of absolute and inherent worth that does not need to be acquired and , personal autonomy and rights. Our own lives and our right to live must become the first priority before anything else. To look after ourselves well we have to learn to become strong, independent and selfish.