Cultural Traditions Regarding Women Fueling Spread of HIV in Botswana, Swaziland, Report Says
Cultural traditions that do not value women are fueling the spread of HIV in Botswana and Swaziland, according to a Physicians for Human Rights report released on Monday, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. "The legal systems in both countries grant women lesser status than men, restricting property, inheritance and other rights," the report said. It added, "Neither country has met its obligations under international human rights law," and as a result, women "continue to be disproportionately vulnerable to HIV/AIDS."
According to AFP/Yahoo! News, women do not have control over sexual relationships, including condom use, and they are afraid that testing positive for HIV will jeopardize their relationships or lead to stigma. The report also found that women's HIV status in Botswana, which has not criminalized partner violence or marital rape, affects their ability to provide food for themselves and their children after contracting the virus. The report found that many HIV-positive women in Botswana engaged in risky sex in exchange for food.
The report found that 19% of people who participated in a community survey in Botswana said it is more important for women to respect male partners than for men to respect their female partners. In addition, the report found that 97% of respondents held at least one discriminatory belief toward women. According to AFP/Yahoo! News, Swaziland has an HIV prevalence of about 40%, and men in the country are encouraged to have multiple sexual partners (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/28).
The report is available online.