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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.

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HIV is top killer for young women

November 10, 2009 Leave a comment

A new report done by the World Health Organization has stated that for the ages between 15 and 49, HIV is the biggest killer for women.

Women are “particular vulnerability” to infection by HIV, WHO says, due to both biology and gender inequality.

WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan said:

“It’s time to pay girls and women back, to make sure that they get the care and support they need to enjoy a fundamental human right at every moment of their lives, that is their right to health,”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. It’s true that women and girls need to have better health care, all over the world. This doesn’t just mean more care for those with HIV, but other things, such as reproductive health. As for HIV though, there does need to be more access to the treatment drugs which are available in Western countries for the many millions in Africa (and other underdeveloped countries) that suffer from this disease. Just because these people may not live in a developed country, does not mean that they don’t deserve the same treatment that people can get over here. It’s sad and shows true character when the rich don’t give to the poor.

And of course, more preventative measures need to be taken to stop this disease from getting a hold of people. Proper sex education must be done, for both women and men. None of this abstinence-only crap, where condoms are evil. Also, since so many women have this disease because of rape, we still need to fight institutionalized sexism all around the world. We need to make sure that we are taking measures to let men know that they have no right to rape anyone.

Ultimately, this is not a fair disease. This is not a fair disease because so many women and girls get it without even consenting to the sexual intercourse they get it from. This remains a feminist issue until many things change.

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.

The ridiculousness of anti-feminist women

January 10, 2008 3 comments

Jessica Valenti, of Feministing.com has a wonderful little piece at The Nation, and now also on Alternet. She talks about the latest in anti-feminist women and how they are doing way more harm to young women, and women in general, than feminism ever has. She specifically talks about Wendy Wright, and oh boy…

In a recent Fox News Special Report, Wright said that proponents of comprehensive sex education are encouraging young people to have sex because “they benefit when kids end up having sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies and then they lead them into having abortions…You have to look at the financial motives behind those who are promoting comprehensive sex ed.”

Yeah, that’s totally right. Sex educators are making millions off of giving kids proper sex education! Ugh. I’m sorry, but I find that such an idiotic thing to say. Another example:

Wright has also made the argument that the increase of women in prison is all feminism’s fault, for teaching women that “they don’t need to be dependent on a husband and they shouldn’t have to depend on their family” which could lead them to “where they’re forced to fend for themselves.”

Oh wow. That’s gold. Complete gold. The rest of the article states more things that conservative women have said and some of it is quite amusing, but quite sad at the same time. I myself cannot understand how any woman can make herself purposely inferior and not believe in equality. Everyone does have a right to their own political ideology, but I just have to ask myself…where are these women getting their ideas from? Hmm…probably their husbands now, their fathers before they got married…so, men. The patriarchy. This is what it does to some women!

Oh the scandal!

December 19, 2007 6 comments

I am sorry that I have to make a post about the most recent famous teen pregnancy, but after reading some responses on People (I know, it’s horrible that I occasionally read that trash!), I have decided that I really do see a feminist issue within all of this.

First off, Jamie Lynn Spears and her boyfriend, Casey Aldridge, made a mistake. Probably some unprotected sex, because you know, abstinence only education is the way to be! And…seriously, who let’s there teenage children live together? But obviously this pregnancy thing wasn’t purposeful, and all we’re hearing now is how it’s all Jamie’s fault, as well as her mothers. This is why I had to respond to this news. Here are some quotes from People:

“This is a shock to anyone? Where are the role models? … I blame the parents on this one for not educating their daughters to behave like ladies (bold mine).

Ladies? Ladies? Seriously? So, her boyfriend had nothing to do with this? Give me a break! This was a decision on both their parts, and Jamie shouldn’t have to have misogynistic expectations on her just because she happens to have a vagina. We’re in a new age people! Women, and young women at that, have SEX. Oh there! I said it! They have sex! Get over it. And she doesn’t need education on how to behave like a lady. She, and her boyfriend, and the rest of the youth in the U.S. need a good, solid, sexual education program. That’s what they need.

And now onto the mother. Huffington Post said:

“Lynne Spears, what were you thinking? Or not thinking and not doing?”

Well, I must say, kids are growing up quite fast these days and they happen to have their own minds and make decisions for themselves. No parent can stop their child from having sex. And what about Jamie’s dad? Is he in all of this? Is he being held responsible with words like these? No. He’s not.

This is hopefully the first and last time I will posting on this, unless more feminist issues arise from it. I don’t want to make some spectacle out of this, as it already has been made out to be! But this is a clear example of why a comprehensive sexual education is needed. Teens are going to make these decisions either way, but they need to be educated about damn contraceptives!

What pro-life really means

December 6, 2007 1 comment

Pro-Life

Mark Crutcher, at WorldNetDaily, discusses the pro-life stance and what pro-life really means. And, of course, I disagree with some of his statements. But hey, that’s to be expected!

First, he states that to be pro-life is to believe “that a new human life is created at the moment of fertilization and is, thus, entitled to the same legal protections as any other human being.” Question, what about the legal rights of an already grown human being?

Also, according to him, this is a complete black and white situation. You’re either pro-abortion or you’re pro-life, by his definition of course.

Then there is the person who says that they are personally opposed to abortion and would never participate in one, but pro-choice when it comes to legality. As amazing as it may seem, I have actually heard pro-lifers describe people who say this as pro-life.

In reality, this is the most insidious and despicable of all positions on abortion. After all, there is no reason to oppose abortion other than the belief that it takes the life of a living human being. So what the “personally opposed” crowd is saying is: “I agree that abortion is the intentional killing of a baby, but if other people want to do it I support their legal right to do so and it’s not my place to interfere.” That is not a pro-life position. It’s like someone in 1860 saying, “I am personally opposed to slavery and I would never own one, but if someone else wants to own a few that’s their business.”

I don’t like the analogy. A slave is not inside my body, or anyone else’s. It’s a completely different situation and it seems to me to be quite far-fetched when we’re talking about abortion and pro-life.

In conclusion, he states:

So the problem is not that women have abortions, but that children die. And that only occurs because our nation took away their right to life. So maybe we need to talk a little less about stopping abortion and a little more about returning legal protection to the unborn. Perhaps then, all these people claiming to be pro-life would know what being pro-life actually means.

Actually, I have a better idea! How about real sex education and making sure teens or anyone who doesn’t want to have a child, is having safe sex? Protection, people! Condoms! Yay! I agree that we do need to talk a little less about women having abortions, and getting to the root of the problem. The root is not that the unborn don’t have legal protection, but that the youth of today are not educated properly about sex and contraceptives. Not to say that other women who are older don’t have abortions, because they do, but in general, we need to get the youth to understand the basics. And they aren’t getting that. But, guess what? They are going to have sex. So, shouldn’t someone take responsibility for telling them to have safe sex?

Don’t teach your kids about sex! It’s a crime!

November 12, 2007 Leave a comment

Aym Smalley, a mother of two, is being prosecuted for “giving her children too much information about sex.”

Her children are 11 and 15, and I guess the son, who is 11, talked to a coounsellor about this and he preferred all this information to be kept to his mother. I can understand this and see this from an 11 year old son, considering she supposedly talked about her own sexual experiences, how to perform oral sex and showed them a sex toy. Ok. I can see the son not liking any of that. But, should this really be a criminal offence?

“Ms. Smalley would be within her rights as a parent to educate her children in such a manner as she sees fit … even if the state feels it improper,” Gumz wrote.

The state, Gumz said, does not have the right to decide what parents can teach their children about sex.

I think that kids do need to hear about sex from their parents, because sex is something that is normal. I don’t see how she could be prosecuted for this, even if it was a little too much information. It was probably nothing worse than kids are talking about amongst themselves anyway!