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A regional overview: Linking sexual violence and HIV/AIDS
Lois Lunga, SAFAIDS Executive Director
May 17, 2005

View the report on the forum

This presentation was made at The Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), Girl Child Network (GCN) and the Women's Action Group (WAG) public forum on May 17, 2005. The forum was meant to assess, plan and map the way forward in dealing with the ongoing increase in girl child sexual abuse in Zimbabwe.

Sexual Violence and Human Rights

  • Sexual violence is a violation of fundamental human rights and has a profound long term impact on physical, mental, social and economic well being of women and girls.
  • Sexual violence involve the violation of their rights to dignity, sexual and reproductive choices.

Sexual Violence and HIV/AIDS

  • Sexual violence plays a crucial and devastating role in increasing the risk and vulnerability of women to HIV infection.
  • Sexual violence is both a cause and consequence of HIV infection.

Factors pushing sexual violence and HIV infection

  • Some erroneous traditional beliefs- perpetuate the spread of HIV, some dictate that having sex with a virgin cures HIV; leading to child sexual abuse.
  • Unequal power in sexual relationships - create an environment of risky sexual behaviour of HIV infection.
  • Girl child sexual abuse, politically instigated and other forms of rape and sexual coercion often carried out without use of condom.
A region pervaded by a culture of sexual violence
  • Despite indicators of progress in promoting women's rights, the dismal record in preventing abuse persists. Violence still pervades society, with the region recording some of the highest rates of rape in the world.
  • Southern Africa is confronted with two epidemics HIV/AIDS and gender based violence.The region has both the highest HIV infection and sexual abuse rates globally.

South Africa

  • A rape happens every 26 seconds.
  • Rape is so rampant that it has earned the status the "rape capital" of the world.
  • A woman born in SA has a greater chance of being rapped than learning how to read.
  • 80% of the victims are 12 years or younger.
  • One in four women face the prospect of being raped in their lifetime.


  • In Namibia a woman/girl is raped every 60 seconds.
  • Since independence incidence of sexual assault cases has increased by an alarming 400%.
  • According the Namibian Government the youngest rape victim is 6 months old, the oldest being 85 years old.


  • 1 in 4 women report having experienced sexual violence.
  • 60% of murder cases are related to domestic violence.
  • In Harare a study at a sexual abuse project showed that 12% of the 13-16 year olds tested HIV positive.
  • 95 % of rape perpetrators are remanded out of custody and there is an evident breakdown of victim-friendly courts.
  • 14 girls were raped and 28 indecently assaulted recently at Macheke Primary School. Some of these are already feared to be HIV positive.


  • In Botswana statistics that at least 34 women and girls are assaulted every month.
  • Of these reports 60% of these are children under the age of 16. In a country with a population of 1 million this figure is very high.
  • Childline Botswana says most cases that have come to the courts directly point to activities by traditional healers and are courtesy to the myth that having sex with a virgin cures HIV.

Lingering Complacency

  • Statistic from Swaziland indicate that in a year when 243 men were charged only 35 were convicted .... Phumelele Thwala (1996) wrote "judges will say that women tend to be over-imaginative and accuse men unjustly or fabricate charges against men.
  • Judiciary official in Botswana and Malawi have declared that husbands "cannot rape" their wives as consent to sex is given upon marriage.

Call to action

Urgent issues needing attention at this forum:

  • How do we avoid the repetition of cases like "Macheke"?
  • Come up with a plan of action to empower Girls and Women.
  • While we agree that there is a silent war going against women and girls.How do we create a social movement against sexual abuse?
  • How do we create a supportive judicial system?

Visit the SAFAIDS Fact sheet

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