The role of religion in addressing gender dynamics

The Book Cafe Gender Forum will this month focus on HIV and AIDS and what role religion can play in order to reduce infections among women, who are hardest hit.

There is now evidence that in Africa more females are affected and infected by HIV/AIDS. However, most interventions have not addressed critical gender issues, for example, gendered and unfair division of labour, unequal access to resources including health care and services, womens powerlessness, low social worth and inability to make decisions even about their bodies.

The HIV/AIDS has added burdens to an already over-burdened, powerless, victimised, oppressed and under-valued group. African villages are now overflowing with women victims of HIV/AIDS who contracted the virus in their bedrooms or because they were victims of rape, marital rape, polygamous relationships, incest, economic hardship and despair that drove them to commercial sex work, exploitation by relatives and a myriad of other factors whose root cause is gender inequality.

Women can and are already doing a lot to cope with the pandemic, but gender roles, or societal expectations regarding how men and women behave and function, may play a role in HIV risk dynamics. For example, in some societies men are assumed to have the right to decide whether and when to have sex, regardless of the womans wishes.

Expectations of sexual fidelity often differ by sex, putting one or the other partner at greater risk of infection. Personal gender ideologies may influence sexual behaviour as individuals seek to act in ways that are consistent with their concepts of masculinity or femininity (also referred to as gender display). For example, condom use may be promoted by ideas of masculinity that include the importance of protecting ones partner.

Gender-based power differentials can influence the risk of unprotected intercourse. Some examples may be found in coercive sex, a womans unwillingness to demand condom use, or a wifes inability to refuse sex with an infected partner. Other sources of power differentials include age differences and cultural norms that assign members of one sex a subservient position.

The contexts in which condoms are used, how do gender norms affect the ease of condom use in different types of relationships (e.g., temporary versus committed)? How does correct and consistent condom use in the context of an ongoing relationship vary in relation to which partner introduces it and when?

How can religious leaders play their part in their spheres of influence to disseminate balanced information that can effect behaviour change in the communities they serve? Are there religious practices that are discriminatory and detrimental to the fight against HIV & AIDS? – Pamberi Trust

Post published in: News

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