Can the law reduce HIV transmission in Malawi?

During a 2005 conference in Swaziland, I presented a paper titled Can The Law Reduce HIV Transmission among Women? The theme of the conference was ‘Has Mainstreaming become an Outlived Paradigm: Is it Protecting Women and Girls in the Era of HIV and Aids.’

The arguments I presented then are still relevant today. So, I have decided to share with you some of the arguments I raised in that paper.

The mainstream can be defined (by authors) as an inter-related set of dominant ideas and development directions and the organisations that make decisions about resource allocations. They understand that what is being mainstreamed into this inter-woven set of ideas and correlative organisation is gender equality as a value.

Seodi White

Seodi White

Therefore, gender mainstreaming is about making a normative preference for equality between women and men a regular part of the functioning of many institutions.

Mainstreaming is being looked at as a process or strategy to work toward the goal of gender equality and, therefore, is not an end in itself. Mainstreaming involves rethinking development goals, institutions and processes to reflect the ideas and priorities of both women and men and to reduce gender disparities.

It is my opinion that gender and HIV mainstreaming in law involves a critical understanding of realities that both women and men face on the ground with respect to HIV and Aids transmission, care and treatment and how the law in its existence or non-existence responds to those realities.

Once that critical understanding is studied and effectively documented, then the challenge is to enact laws or amend existing laws that reflect an incorporation of rights and responsibilities for men and women using a rights-based approach.

Enactment of laws to this effect, as well as implementation of the same would empower the most vulnerable and help them find their power to identify strategies that will help be less vulnerable to transmission of HIV.

In 1990, Panos London launched the Triple Jeopardy: Women and Aids for World Aids Day. This was the first time the UN Global Programme on Aids officially called the world’s attention to women’s vulnerability to HIV/Aids.

The term, “Triple Jeopardy” was first coined by the society for Women and Aids in Africa (SWAA) founded in 1988. SWAA used it to describe the dangers women experience as individuals, mothers and cares in the face of the pandemic and the importance of women centred prevention and care programmes.

Over the years, Triple Jeopardy has tried to establish a link between gender violence and women and girls increased risk of HIV Infection. A study conducted in 2004 among 1 336 South African women determined that women who are beaten or dominated by their partners are up to 52 percent more likely to be infected by HIV than women who live in non-violent households.

This is one of the many reasons that WLSA Malawi launched an advocacy campaign for the country to come up with a law aimed at preventing violence against women particularly in domestic violence situation.

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  • The article was published in the Weekend Nation
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