‘HIV pos­i­tive women vul­ner­a­ble to abuse’

Lesotho Times - - Health -

WOMEN have the right to de­cide on their sex­ual re­la­tions and those with HIV/AIDS should pro­tect them­selves from fur­ther in­fec­tion.

This was said by Com­mu­nity of Women Liv­ing with HIV and AIDS Le­sotho Pro­gramme Of­fi­cer, ‘Makananelo Fosa on Tues­day dur­ing a meet­ing held with mem­bers of the Mazenod com­mu­nity.

The meet­ing was or­gan­ised by Women and Law South­ern Africa (WLSA) Le­sotho in com­mem­o­ra­tion of Women’s Month. Au­gust is re­garded as Women’s Month as a trib­ute to the more than 20 000 South African women who marched to the Union Build­ings in Pre­to­ria on 9 Au­gust 1956 in protest against the ex­ten­sion of Pass Laws to women.

In her ad­dress to scores of women in at­ten­dance, Ms Fosa said the abuse of women con­tin­ued long af­ter be­ing in­fected with HIV/AIDS be­cause of pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­etal prac­tices.

“Women have the right to tell their hus­bands to use con­doms if they are in­fected. Fur­ther­more, it is in­cum­bent upon you to make sure you take your med­i­ca­tion if you are di­ag­nosed with the virus,” she said.

Ms Fosa said some of ar­chaic and chau­vin­is­tic cul­tural ten­den­cies which disem­power women from de­cid­ing about their sex­ual health should be done away with.

She said some women had to en­dure seg­re­ga­tion by their com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies for be­ing HIV pos­i­tive.

“Mak­ing de­ci­sions in the fam­ily is also your right and your hus­band can’t tell you not to eat from a cer­tain plate be­cause you are HIV pos­i­tive,” said Ms Fosa.

WLSA Pro­gramme Of­fi­cer, Mokhe­seng Buti, chipped in say­ing women should know their rights in a mar­riage.

“We need to un­der­stand what mar­riage con­sti­tutes in the Le­sotho con­text. If a man abuses his wife and de­prives her of her ma­te­rial needs, she may go out and seek another who will pro­vide her with such,” he said.

Mr Buti said there were two types of le­gal mar­riages in Le­sotho; the tra­di­tional and western.

“In the case of a tra­di­tional mar­riage, both par­ties come to an agree­ment and also need the en- dorse­ment of the par­ents for it to have le­gal stand­ing,” he said

“In a white wed­ding, the par­ties and par­ents need to agree with the added re­quire­ment of a cer­tifi­cate from the Dis­trict Ad­min­is­tra­tor’s of­fice that au­then­ti­cates the mar­riage.”

Mr Buti added: “Un­der the tra­di­tional frame­work, if the fa­ther dies, the old­est son will in­herit the es­tate but also as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­ity of con­tin­u­ing to take care of the fam­ily.

“Where there’s no writ­ten will in a western mar­riage, the wife is en­ti­tled to 50 per­cent of the es­tate while the chil­dren split the other half among them­selves.”

The Gen­der Of­fi­cer for Maseru, ‘Mamoli­beli Ngakane, said women should recog­nise their im­por­tance in so­ci­ety.

“The world, in­clud­ing, Le­sotho sees our brav­ery and fight­ing spirit. This year we are fo­cus­ing on the in­her­i­tance of the girl child,” Ms Ngakane said.

“This is be­cause we have recog­nised that many are abused af­ter the demise of their par­ents. Women and girl chil­dren should be equipped to fight against dis­crim­i­na­tion and abuse.”

Af­ter the meet­ing, one of the vil­lagers, ‘Mapon­tšo Mothebe, told the Le­sotho Times she had learnt a lot about her rights which she pre­vi­ously did not know about.

“It was im­por­tant for us to learn about such is­sues as mar­i­tal laws and our rights re­gard­ing sex­ual re­la­tions,” said Ms Mothebe.

“We are over­whelmed with the task of rais­ing chil­dren and mak­ing sure there is food for the fam­ily to eat since a lot of the men are fail­ing to pro­vide.”

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