Silencing women's sexuality: Global AIDS policies and the case of the female condom
Number of pages
SourceJournal of the International AIDS Society, 16, (2013), article 18452
Article / Letter to editor
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FSW_Institute for Gender Studies (IGS)
SW OZ RSCR CAOS
Journal of the International AIDS Society
SubjectAnthropology and Development Studies; Dynamics of gender
Introduction: The female condom is the only evidence-based AIDS prevention technology that has been designed for the female body; yet, most women do not have access to it. This is remarkable since women constitute the majority of all HIV-positive people living in sub-Saharan Africa, and gender inequality is seen as a driving force of the AIDS epidemic. In this study, we analyze how major actors in the AIDS prevention field frame the AIDS problem, in particular the female condom in comparison to other prevention technologies, in their discourse and policy formulations. Our aim is to gain insight into the discursive power mechanisms that underlie the thinking about AIDS prevention and women's sexual agency. Methods: We analyze the AIDS policies of 16 agencies that constitute the most influential actors in the global response to AIDS. Our study unravels the discursive power of these global AIDS policy actors, when promoting and making choices between AIDS prevention technologies. We conducted both a quantitative and qualitative analysis of how the global AIDS epidemic is being addressed by them, in framing the AIDS problem, labelling of different categories of people for targeting AIDS prevention programmes and in gender marking of AIDS prevention technologies. Results: We found that global AIDS policy actors frame the AIDS problem predominantly in the context of gender and reproductive health, rather than that of sexuality and sexual rights. Men's sexual agency is treated differently from women's sexual agency. An example of such differentiation and of gender marking is shown by contrasting the framing and labelling of male circumcision as an intervention aimed at the prevention of HIV with that of the female condom. Conclusions: The gender-stereotyped global AIDS policy discourse negates women's agency in sexuality and their sexual rights. This could be an important factor in limiting the scale-up of female condom programmes and hampering universal access to female condoms.
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