Southern African HIV/AIDS Advocates Say Countries’ Laws Not Adequately Addressing Women’s Rights
Domestic HIV/AIDS-related laws and policies in Southern African countries are not adequately addressing the rights of women and girls, according to HIV/AIDS advocates who attended an Oxfam America event on Thursday in Johannesburg, South Africa, Inter Press Service reports. Studies in Southern Africa have shown that regional and international human rights agreements have not been "adequately applied or incorporated" into domestic HIV/AIDS-related laws, especially those regarding the protection of young women, Jacqueline Bataringaya, an HIV/AIDS consultant for Oxfam in Southern Africa, said. According to a report released last year from the U.N. Secretary General's Task Force on Women, Girls and AIDS in Southern Africa, more than 75% of HIV-positive people ages 15 to 24 are female, and a majority of them contract HIV as soon as they begin engaging in sexual activity. According to Bataringaya, Zimbabwe law is "silent" about "harmful traditional practices" -- such as forcing young girls to marry "aggrieved claimants" and subjecting young girls to "virginity testing" -- that could make women more vulnerable to contracting HIV, Inter Press Service reports. "The deep-rooted social and cultural norms continue to assign women throughout the sub-region to lower social and economic status than men," Bataringaya said. South African Judge Johann Van der Westhuizen said that women should have further protection from abuses such as sexual assault and urged women to know their rights and responsibilities. "The answers are not always in law and in court, although sometimes the courts take a stand on social changes," Van der Westhuizen said (Nduru, Inter Press Service, 4/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.