The link between HIV and Gender-Based Violence
The sad reality is that the world we live in has many dangers facing women and girls. The SA police crime statistics state that 42 596 sexual offences were reported from 2015 to 2016. While that number in itself is scary chomas, that doesn’t even begin to cover the instances of gender based violence which were not reported.
What is Gender-Based Violence?
Before we carry on, I’d like to breakdown Gender-Based Violence (GBV); GBV is defined as: “any form of deliberate physical, psychological or sexual harm, or threat of harm, directed against a person on the basis of their gender”. So, while we automatically think of rape, this definition also includes both physical and emotional abuse, and yes, bullying can definitely fall into this field. As mentioned there are three main types of GBV:
Physical – beating, biting, using weapons, pulling hair, chocking.
Psychological – insults, extreme constant criticism, yelling, discriminating, blaming, shaming, humiliating.
Sexual – sexual harassment, unwanted touching, rape, forced prostitution, sexual trafficking.
What does this have to do with HIV?
Like rape, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) puts you at risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and STIs. GBV is all about power and exercising control over the victim. If you’re a victim of GBV, you’re often left feeling powerless, unable to stand up for yourself and at risk of being pressured into unsafe behaviour such as unprotected sex.
Victims of GBV are left with low self-worth, anxiety, and self-blame. If not treated with therapy, these psychological effects can stay with them their whole lives. A victim of abuse may already be so traumatised she would never think to stand up for her right to sexual health by insisting on a condom. Infections can also be spread due to the violent nature of GBV sexual assault. The lining of the vagina is thinner than the skin found on the penis, making it easier to tear when there is force like a sexual assault.
Fear of being abused might also lead to a woman not going for an HIV test, not disclosing her HIV status and not seeking treatment for HIV. A pregnant woman who is HIV positive and in this situation might then risk passing HIV on to her unborn baby.
So, what can we do?
One of the worst things about GBV is how few people report these events out of fear that either their attacker will harm them more, or even worse, that no one will believe them. We can help this by getting educated and talking to others, creating a safe space for people who have gone through this.
If you’re a victim of domestic abuse or know someone who is, here are a few helplines to call:
Stop Gender Violence helpline: 0800 150 150
LifeLine Southern Africa helpline: 0861 322 322
People Opposed to Woman Abuse (Powa) Helpline: 083 765 1235
The more we learn and talk, the better our communities will become; and hopefully one day, safer. Let’s start that conversation today choma.
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