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HIV and AIDS policy is gender insensitive
Matabeleland AIDS Council (MAC)
June 30, 2005
Meeting HIV Aids.htm
HIV and AIDS Policy is gender insensitive and gender oppressive.
This summed up the opinions of the MS
partners in the HIV and AIDS sector after a two day gender analysis
of the policy. "It looks as if the policy was written by men’’
commented the facilitator Moira Ngaru, a Gender consultant."The
policy supports polygamy, cultural practices and makes no attempt
to condemn commercial sex work" she noted.
Participants also noted that some of the language in the policy
was still stigmatizing to people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHAs)
where several sections refered to the "infected" instead
of people living with HIV and AIDS. "How many men were at that
meeting?" was the first question my colleagues at MAC asked
me when I reported on this meeting. Well there were three (3) men
out of twenty (20) participants, however they all seemed to agree
on that the policy was outdated and needed amendments.
The participants noted that gender needs to be mainstreamed into
all sections of the policy. They all agreed that Section 7 dealing
with Gender should be removed as there is no need to have gender
as a stand alone section. Even more worrying was the fact that the
policy did not openly highlight the risk of cultural practices such
as polygamy and wife inheritance.
"We should not look at the policy in isolation of the other
laws in Zimbabwe" noted Fadzai Chatiza from Zimbabwe
Women Lawyers. "There is a contradiction between the National
HIV and AIDS policy and the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Section 23)
which upholds customary law. Our constitution should be amended
to include social and economic rights" she concluded. Participants
noted that there was a need to look at and analyze other intersecting
policies as well such as the National Gender policy, National policy
on orphans, National Home Based Care policy, Education Policy, Health
policy and Labour policy.
Section 6.7 referring to Commercial Sex Work does not make any attempt
to condemn the practice and provide a solution. Participants felt
that was a need to include a section on the rehabilitation of commercial
sex workers which has been successfully done in Gweru (GWAPA),
Marondera and Murambinda. There was also a need to include a section
on public education for the commercial sex workers and their clients.
"Technically the police should be able to arrest males for
loitering and curb crawling" noted Thereza Mugadza, Lawyer/Consultant
attending the meeting. Thereza also noted that Section 6.8 dealing
with prisons should include "open prisons" where prisoners
do community service. There is also need to add a clause on access
to neviraphine for pregnant women in prisons as well as the rehabilitation
of prisoners after they complete their sentence.
The group also noted that Section 5.2 dealing with Community Home
Based Care (CHBC) did not acknowledge the major role that women
played in home based care. There is need to train the caregivers
in counselling and home based care skills. A clause should be added
compelling more men to be involved in home based care. Support systems
should be put in place for the caregivers who may experience "burn
out" and need counselling.
Section 5 on Care for PLWHAs needs to be updated with clauses on
opportunistic infection treatment and Antiretroviral medicines.
The 4 A’s were stressed as in Affordable, Accessible, Available
and Acceptable treatment for PLWHAs. The group felt that government
should assist importers to access the ARVs as well as encourage
the exchange of information between doctors and the traditional
leadership. The importance of Nutrition in care of PLWHAs should
also be added to this Section.
Surprisingly the group also felt that section 3 on Confidentiality
should be amended and that mandatory testing of HIV will destroy
the current stigma around HIV and AIDS. It was recommended that
HIV and AIDS become a notifiable disease. There were competing rights
in this section, that is the right to confidentiality versus the
right to health and life. It was felt that there should be legal
provision for disclosure of one’s HIV status to one’s partner.
The National AIDS Policy is also silent on the issue of child sexual
abuse which needs to be added to Section 6 as well as the recognition
that 93% of the survivors of sexual abuse are women and girls. In
view of this Section 5.5 which refers to informed consent to HIV
testing is a deterrent as many survivors of sexual abuse are under
the age of 16 and have a right to Voluntary testing and Counselling
(VCT) services. If women form 52% of Zimbabwe’s population and most
women were in the rural areas, there is need for increased VCT centers
in the rural areas.
In conclusion, Moira Ngaru noted that one should not just look at
the National AIDS policy but also at the environment in which the
policy operates. She noted that current environment in Zimbabwe
is not supportive of the National AIDS Policy because the cultural
norms and religious beliefs were prohibitive. The difficult economic
environment made it difficult for women to negotiate for safer sex
and there was need for stronger political will to implement the
National HIV and AIDS policy and put it into action
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