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Loud cry for help



Last week I discussed gender-based violence and how it impacts the lives of women. Before I move on to something new, may I raise the idea I did in my last article again. Bo mme, we really need to march to whoever make the laws in this country and demand that our rights as women are revisited for our own safekeeping.

What happened in the High Court last week was a circus show. It was however not very comical because a man that killed his wife in cold blood might walk freely out of the court without being charged because our slipshod state failed to keep safe the only papers that would keep the hearts of the Mofolo’s at ease after battling the tragic loss of their child.

I bet no woman would find joy in seeing another fall prey to a murderer.

So perhaps we should change our direction and visit the police headquarters instead and plead that they let the women police deal with cases of GBV, then we can negotiate with the courts to assign women judges for such cases and see how they will unfold. It’s high time we kill fire with fire.

Gender-based violence is like water, you know how most dish recipes have that “add a certain amount of water” line. GBV along with gender inequality contributes a lot to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Unlike coronavirus, nobody is really sure about when this virus was first recognised. What we do know is that the King in 2000 declared it a natural disaster.

Some research I carried out shows that although many people believe that mainly men get infected with HIV/AIDS, women are actually getting more infected at a faster rate than men. A Joint UN programme on this virus proved this by stating that over 10 million of the 25 million adults infected since the outbreak of HIV are women. The proportion of positive results is growing higher every day with almost half of 7 500 new infections daily occurring among women.

Now the question is: Why women? Why are women getting more infected than men on a daily basis? Does this virus target a certain gender? I am no medical expert but what I learned during my biology classes in high school is that women are more vulnerable than men to infection because of the greater mucus area exposed to HIV during penile penetration. And I would like to leave it here.

The biological reasoning aside, another reason for this is the risk related to women’s exposure to gender inequality in societies. The social and economic pressure of poverty also exacerbates women’s risk of HIV/AIDS. Marriage, more research states, is also another major risk factor, especially for young women. But this is a topic for another day.

Although women and girls have enough information about HIV and resources to take preventive measures, they still face barriers to the negotiation of safe sex because of unequal power dynamics with men. Oftentimes, sexual harm is fuelled more by power and control than it is by pleasure or attraction. If you could take some time to investigate rape cases, even in marriages, then you could see that this is true.

Gender inequality is a major concern for both women and men and it impacts strongly on their daily lives. Some people still confuse or associate gender equality policies with women’s issues because for years, only women have been the driving force behind gender equality strategies and struggles and this is all because women are still misrepresented in most spheres of life, especially decision making tables hence putting them at a greater risk of harm.

To find a proper successful solution to this, to reduce the fast-growing rates of new infections of HIV/AIDS, and to achieve the 95-95-95 HIV testing and treatment targets, we should start first by changing gender dynamics. We can start by changing conversations with our male children, counterparts, and partners and teach them the importance of communicating before any sexual activity because most new infections are a result of unsafe sex.

We can push to make available to every woman and girl (regardless of age and status) all the resources to take preventive measures and eliminate discriminatory behaviours among service providers. And because more new infections are said to be a result of prostitution which is also a result of poverty, job creation should be prioritised to get women off the streets. This might help reduce infection and release some pressure on our economy. We need that as a country.

But the most important thing that should happen is for the court systems to change over time because of the issues that keep arising concerning the violation of women that some lead to new infections; sexual violence acts for example.

But the number one strategy that could really work in our favour is to propel factors that make clear links to the epidemic such as violence against women, denial of legal rights, and women’s limited participation in decision-making. All these may be achieved by empowering women and guaranteeing that their rights are taken care of so that they can protect themselves from infection, overcome stigma and gain greater access to treatment, care, and support.

Bokang Masasa

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