C.7.The Impact of Sexual Violence on Women’s Vulnerability to HIV Transmission and on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Nkhota-kota, Malawi
Maggie Chipasula-Banda; Flossie Gomile-Chidyaonga; Sarah Hendriks; Tinyade Kachika; Zunzo Mitole; and Seodi White.
Objectives: To examine and document forms of sexual violence and the ways in which they increase women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS transmission. To examine how these forms of sexual violence impact on women’s sexual and reproductive health rights in the context of HIV/AIDS. To identify and analyse how various forms of sexual violence are addressed in the current legal and policy framework within the context of HIV/AIDS. To examine whether and how existing HIV/AIDS programs address sexual violence and promote the sexual and reproductive health rights of women. To identify and examine the intersecting factors (cultural, economic, socio-political legal) that link sexual violence with women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. To investigate how underlying knowledge, beliefs and attitudes make women vulnerable to sexual violence and HIV/AIDS.
Methodology:Through a multi-pronged research process of semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and documentation analysis, WLSA Malawi collected data from women and men in Nkhota-kota district of Malawi.
Results: This research revealed numerous interesting issues related to the construction of sex and sexuality, the transaction of sex within the local economy and fish industry, and the influence of cultural practices on women’s vulnerability to HIV transmission. WLSA’s research found that Malawian women are situated in a socio-legal and political-economic environment which sustains unequal gender power relations that tolerate the perpetuation of violence against women and leave women more vulnerable to HIV infection and the infringement of their sexual and reproductive health rights. WLSA’s research revealed that Malawian women become vulnerable to HIV infection because of their experiences of sexual violence. The social, cultural, economic, and political factors that perpetuate the existence of sexual violence within the communities of Nkhota-kota are interrelated to women’s vulnerability to HIV infection in a multitude of complex ways. In particular, women’s lack of economic autonomy means that they are often powerless to protect themselves from infection, to negotiate the terms of sex, or to leave a high-risk or violent relationship.