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AIDS and Gender

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

With the recent finding that HIV/AIDS is the biggest killer among women in their reproductive age, we know that there are some serious issues that need to be looked at in terms of this disease and gender.

We know that for most women (an estimated 98% of all women affected by HIV/AIDS live in developing countries), treatment, prevention and ultimately, equality, are things that they do not have access too. Let’s talk about gender inequality for a moment, shall we? Gender norms are a part of this inequality and accounts for much of the spreading of this disease. UNAIDS states,

Gender norms, for example, often dictate that women and girls should be ignorant and passive about sex, leaving them unable to negotiate safer sex or access appropriate services. Gender norms in many societies also reinforce a belief that men should seek multiple sexual partners, take risks and be self-reliant.

And let’s not forget, they also mention how in in many cultures, violence against women is condoned. So looking at the gender norms of men, it’s apparent that women automatically become more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. These uber masculine gender norms continue to hurt women in many ways, but especially in this area. And of course, when women and girls are supposed to be “passive” towards men about sex, it doesn’t prevent the spreading of HIV/AIDS. A way to hurdle this is to of course promote gender equality, empower women to know more about their bodies and sex, and teach men that these norms aren’t good for women, or themselves. And of course we can’t forget, if there is going to be consensual sex, use a condom!

The WHO talks about another issue that comes up with gender norms. They call it “gender-related barriers” for services, or treatment.

Women may face barriers due to their lack of access to and control over resources, child-care responsibilities, restricted mobility and limited decision-making power.

Socialization of men may mean that they will not seek HIV services due to a fear of stigma and discrimination, losing their jobs and of being perceived as “weak” or “unmanly”.

How true. For women of course, it appears that they are not in control of the decision to go seek out services or treatments. How horrible, but true. Women once against face the brunt of this disease, because of their lack of options. Men on the other hand probably do have much more access to services or treatment, but because of their societal gender norms, they refuse to get treatment. This hurts men. This hurts men a lot. Any cultural idea of what hegemonic masculinity should look like, usually hurts men and it can be seen here that men also pay the price.

I’m not going to sit back here and think I know the solution to all of this. I don’t think anyone actually does; and even if they do, solutions are a very hard thing to put in place and people will still continue to live with HIV/AIDS and die from it. However, I do say that promoting gender equality is a must (it’s a must anyway, but I digress). Through promoting gender equality, women and girls will have more rights, as well as have an understanding about their bodies and understand that consensual sex is where it’s at. Now, I’m not saying that women and girls always have the choice of consensual sex. A lot of times they don’t. But for them to know that that is what kind of sex should be happening, is a must.

Women and girls do unfortunately bare the greater responsibility and consequences of sex many, many times. After all, we are the ones that get pregnant and we are the ones that are more vulnerable to STIs. It shouldn’t be our complete responsibility, however, it sometimes ends up like that. Women and girls must be educated about safe sex and the possibility of HIV/AIDS. Many women and girls are in the dark about this because they have not had access to this kind of education. Of course, this still will not prevent HIV/AIDS, because some men will insist that no condom be used.

And this brings me right back around to promoting gender equality. When women are able to make decisions and choices about their bodies and sex, we will see a decrease in HIV/AIDS, in both women and men.

If you want to read more about AIDS and gender, visit AVERT.

Single-sex classrooms on the increase

November 16, 2009 3 comments

According to some news reports, single-sex classrooms are increasing in some parts of the States. This idea isn’t new, but I hadn’t heard much about it for awhile. According to one report, the single-sex classrooms “increased their grades, self-confidence, interest in trying new ways of learning, class participation and ease in making friends.”

I’ve personally never figured out if I’m for or against this form of education, because I haven’t researched it enough. I think I’ve gone back and forth on this issue before, because there are of course pros and cons to this. The National Association for Single Sex Public Education state the many pros of this classroom setting.

We now have good evidence that single-sex classrooms CAN break down gender stereotypes, particularly when teachers have appropriate professional development. Girls in single-sex educational settings are more likely to take classes in math, science, and information technology. Boys in single-gender classrooms…are much more likely to pursue interests in art, music, drama, and foreign languages. Both girls and boys have more freedom to explore their own interests and abilities than in the coed classroom.

The Association of course does make it known that you can’t just set up single-sex classrooms and leave it at that. They make it known that teachers and administrators must be trained and understand the methods of teaching for these single-sex classrooms.

The ACLU on the other hand is opposed to single-sex classrooms. They state,

In addition to being unlawful, the rationale behind sex-segregated academic programs is bad for kids. These programs are often based on questionable science about how girls’ and boys’ brains develop and on disturbing gender stereotypes.

The ACLU explains some of the stereotypes, and believes that co-education is beneficial for girls and boys.

So, what is your take? Do you believe that single-sex classrooms are a good or bad thing? Or, are you not sure? Take the poll!



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Teen pregnancy an “epidemic” in foster care

July 23, 2009 Leave a comment

I read an interesting article from Time yesterday about teen pregnancy in foster care. It’s never anything that I’ve really thought about (despite me volunteering with foster kids every week), and the article is quite enlightening about this topic. It’s definitely a recommended reading!

To start off with a stat: Nearly 50% of girls in foster care have been pregnant at least once before they are 19. My reaction was a big, fat wow. There is clearly something wrong here! Luckily, the article goes into why this is obviously neglected.

Yet very few advocates and policymakers have focused on the issue of pregnancy among foster youth. “Most people in the teen-pregnancy field don’t really pay much attention to teens in foster care,” explains the National Campaign’s senior policy director, Andrea Kane. “And most people working in the child-welfare system are so busy trying to place kids in homes that they don’t focus much on pregnancy prevention.”

The article also says that girls in foster care are more likely to have sex at a younger age, be forced to have sex and less likely to use contraception. Well, these issues just open another can of worms which can be connected with education, the instability of foster care (and sometimes the bad conditions of foster care), peer groups, etc.

Of course within the realm of education, comes sex education. The article brings up this issue as a big one. Social workers aren’t talking to the kids about sex education, and the foster parents are definitely not bringing it up. I mean, it’s true. Parents of even their even biological children don’t want to talk about sex. It’s just one of those things that gets “passed off” to someone else, which usually ends up being peer groups, and we all know that peer groups aren’t the best place to learn what you need to learn about sex.

Fortunately, something is being done about this.

Planned Parenthood is recruiting and training thousands of peer educators — many of them in foster care themselves — who can reach out to teens with medically accurate advice. The organization is also testing out an online chat service that enables teens to get answers from a health professional at any time, day or night. “Sometimes,” says Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, “we find teens are more comfortable asking a total stranger.”

This is a great solution, and I hope that it will work at least to some extent! Obviously nothing is going to happen overnight, but the more advocacy for these foster kids, the better.

Feminism, dead?

November 9, 2007 Leave a comment

The first line of this article made me sigh. Feminism is supposedly dead, and there’s a big thank goodness for that, coming from this particular writer.

One. Feminism is not dead. I think that’s rather clear. If feminism were dead, men and women all around the world would be frolicking (ok, not literally) around in a field of equality, tolerance, and freedom. And unfortunately, feminists are still being stereotyped as the “frizzy-haired women who refuse to shave their legs” and the bra-free women that they are. I, personally, cannot go without a bra, although I am jealous at women who can afford to occassionally go without one.

This writer has clearly been midinformed her whole life about feminists and feminism in general. This is no huge attack on her, but the society that we are all raised in.

It’s the 21st century, feminists are not that hairy-legged stereotype, nor it is feminism dead. Get over it.

Isn’t it ironic?

November 5, 2007 1 comment

Texas has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the United States! Hm…I wonder why that is?

Texas’ policy is to deny contraceptives without parental consent wherever possible and to push an abstinence-only sex education program in public schools.

Experts, though, are questioning that approach. They note that from 1991 to 2004, the state’s teen birth rate dropped by 19 percent, while the U.S. rate dipped by one-third.

There is clear correlation here. Abstinence-only education and parental consent for contraceptives equates to teen pregnancy. What teen would want to ask their parents for consent for freaking condoms? I sure wouldn’t ask my parents for consent. And obviously most teens aren’t, and are having sex, “hoping for the best”, as in hopefully they won’t get pregnant.

When will the government realize this mistake of abstinence-only education and parental consent? It is very true that abstinence is the only 100% effective way to prevent a pregnancy, but it’s not realistic in our society today. The government needs to be doing what’s best for the people they are trying to govern, instead of thinking about their own religious ideaologies.

A sex education debate! Yay!

November 4, 2007 Leave a comment

The debate is “Are schools encouraging kids to have sex?

Shaunti Feldhahn thinks so,

King Middle School in Portland, Maine, has handed out condoms to 11-year-olds since 2000. And the school board just decided to provide prescription contraceptives without parental approval. So the school nurse can know a young girl is sexually active, privately put her on the pill so she can avoid pregnancy and keep that knowledge from parents who want to teach their daughter about sexual choices. If this isn’t encouraging students toward sex, I don’t know what is.

Should kids be having sex at 11? No. But unfortunately, some kids do decide to have sex at 11 and they need the proper education and protection. And parents can still teach their kids about sex and try to persuade their sexual choices, but in the end, it’s not their choice. And we all know we have to get to these kids early now! They are bombarded with sex…everywhere.

Oh right, and we know that abstinence-only education doesn’t help one bit, and it’s pretty much a pile of crap, so even if kids are taught abstinence-only, they will still have sex. Probably without protection.

Moving onto Andrea Sarvady, who thinks that schools aren’t encouraging kids to have sex. And she does the beat down on abstinence-only education!

Pregnant teens? No one wants that. Yet I doubt the solution lies with people like Pam Stenzel, a Bush appointee to the Department of Health and Human Service’s task force for abstinence education guidelines. Here’s Stenzel, when she thinks she’s among “friends,” addressing the effectiveness of an abstinence-only curriculum at a religious convention: “I don’t care if it works, because at the end of the day . . . I’m answering to God.”

Oh, and…

She adds: “AIDS is not the enemy . . . a hysterectomy at 20 is not the enemy . . . An unplanned pregnancy is not the enemy. My child believing that they can . . . sin without consequence . . . spending eternity separated from God, is the enemy!”

This is sick! Where has religious freedom gone in the United States? I mean, that’s not what we’re talking about here…but it sure seems like the government is simply pushing abstinence-only education on every youth, whether they are Christian or not, because the Christian Bible forewarns of pre-marital sex. I really have no problem with this being taught in homes or churches, but to bring abstinence-only into schools under this condition is simply not right.

Ran a little tangent there, didn’t I? The point is, we really do need youth educated about sex and they need to know the protection that is out there and they need to use it when having sex. Sex is going to happen, and the government, as well as some conservative Christians need to stop denying this.

India is trying for gender equality

November 3, 2007 1 comment

India is one of those Asian countries that have “missing daughters” and the government is attempting to end this gender discrimination.

One of their fist plans is to have incentives for family with daughters. This has been submitted to the Planning Commission by the Women and Child Development Ministry.

In an effort to reduce gender discrimination against girl children, the government plans to provide cash and non-cash incentives to parents in backward districts to encourage them to register the birth of daughters, send them to school regularly and not rush them into marriage as soon as they are 18 years old.

Considering girls deserve to be registered at birth, just like boys and they also deserve an education, I am very much in support of this. I just hope that some Indian families will see these incentives as a good thing and take them!

The gross enrollment rate of the girl child in schools is still lower than boys’ and their dropout rate very high. According to the National Family Health Survey-3, 57 per cent of girls are married before the legally marriageable age of 18. In some backward areas, the proportion of child marriages is as high as 80 per cent of marriages of girls.

These statistics are definitely discouraging and shocking. Recently, I’ve been reading Gandhi’s autobiography, and he had a child marriage, of course this was in the 1800’s and it was hell. I can’t even imagine child marriages still occurring, as they obviously aren’t in the best interest of any child.

Anyway, this plan is going to discussed on November 8 by the Committee. My hope is that this will actually be able to bring some more gender equality, while it’s not much, it really is a start. Ultimately, no family should feel they need incentives to have daughters, or keep her in school, but if this is the way things need to be done, then so be it.