Women in Namibia Call for Efforts To Improve Sexual Rights, Curb Spread of HIV
A group of women in Namibia recently called for efforts to improve their sexual rights in an effort to curb the spread of HIV in the country, the New Era reports. "Women should know about their sexual rights; it is very important, especially for women in rural areas where men, more often than not, abuse women," advocate Vicky Schimming said at a recent workshop on sexual rights, culture and HIV/AIDS. The workshop is part of a nationwide campaign, organized by the group Sister Namibia, that was launched in 2000 to examine the sexual and cultural practices that violate women's rights and contribute to the spread of HIV. According to Sister Namibia Director Liz Frank, the campaign also aims to collect case studies for a handbook on sexuality in Namibia and bolster local capacity to hold workshops on the connections between HIV/AIDS, poverty, some cultural practices and sexual violence.
"Everyone talks about the need to change behavior to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, but there is hardly any discussion on the need to change harmful sexual cultural practices that are often the drivers of the disease," Frank said. According to workshop participant Ngondi Ngatjiheue, women in some parts of the country are not able to make choices about sex. "Sex is difficult," she said, adding that a woman "cannot ask to have sex with [her] husband, and [she] cannot refuse him when he wants sex." Ngatjiheue also said that women do not have the power to negotiate condom use. "If you insist, your husband or partner will accuse you of infidelity," she said, adding, "It is only a small percentage of men who will accept the use of condoms."
According to Namibia's 2007 National HIV/AIDS Policy, traditional leaders should be provided with education about the risks of some customs and practices. In addition, the policy says that people involved with traditional initiations are required to use accurate and appropriate sex and reproductive health education and that unsafe practices should be stopped, modified or replaced with alternative practices (Sasman, New Era, 10/3).