Zimbabwe: Women Seek Protection Against HIV

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WOMEN activist groups are advocating a change in societal attitude towards speaking freely about sex and sexuality in order to reduce the vulnerability of women to HIV and Aids.

This comes from the realisation that the Sexual Offences Act does not compel spouses to reveal their HIV status to each other.

The Act, the women argue, has two clauses that stipulate that it is a criminal offence to transmit HIV wilfully and that marital rape is a crime.

However, the legislation..

WOMEN activist groups are advocating a change in societal attitude towards speaking freely about sex and sexuality in order to reduce the vulnerability of women to HIV and Aids.

This comes from the realisation that the Sexual Offences Act does not compel spouses to reveal their HIV status to each other.

The Act, the women argue, has two clauses that stipulate that it is a criminal offence to transmit HIV wilfully and that marital rape is a crime.

However, the legislation does not have clauses that make disclosure and confidentiality compulsory, hence women remain the largest group affected by HIV and Aids in the country since they cannot initiate for safe sex.

In an interview recently, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers' Association director Mrs Emelia Muchawa said women are more susceptible to HIV infection because of their weakened position in initiating sex.

She said the Sexual Offences Act came into being as a measure against the "I do, I do for ever" convention that seemed to perpetuate gender-based violence.

She said as a result, the Act was limited in its capacity for reducing the vulnerability of women with regard to HIV and Aids.

She, however, opted for the redefining of gender roles and change in attitude towards sex and sexuality.

Mrs Muchawa said her organisation was conducting sensitisation programmes in Murombedzi, Esigodini and Matshetsheni outside Bulawayo.

In a separate interview, Musasa Project director Mrs Ednah Bhala said there was urgent need to amend the Sexual Offences Act.

She said her organisation was zeroing in on improving family relations, since "amicable relations in the family are imperative for encouraging women to negotiate for safe sex.

"This is a social concern if we are to protect our women because most of them are not economically independent for them to be able to purchase anti-retroviral drugs," she said.

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