Harmonising gender relationsLiving with AIDS #165

Harmonising gender relationsLiving with AIDS #165

A new concept is gaining momentum in South Africa. After three years of debate and discussion a Charter for Sexual Rights has been adopted enshrining the rights of women to control their sexual and reproductive health. The Charter advocates mutual respect between men and women and it is hoped that this will prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

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Duration: 4min 47sec

Transcript

KHOPOTSO: The Sexual Rights Charter invokes the South African Constitution and says that men and women are sexual beings with equal rights in their relationships. It acknowledges, however, that South Africa’€™s high levels of date rape, marital rape, incest domestic violence, teenage pregnancy and HIV and AIDS are clear indicators that many people do not enjoy these rights. Zanele Hlatshwayo is Programme Manager for Sexual Health and Rights at the Women’€™s Health Project, one of eight organisations responsible for developing the Charter.

ZANELE HLATSHWAYO: The primary objective of the campaign was to confront the escalating incidence of HIV infection, gender-based violence and unplanned teenage pregnancies by creating forums that interrogated the predisposing factors to the three issues’€¦ The campaign looked at the role played by gender inequality and socio-economic and cultural subordination of women in increasing the levels of HIV infection, gender-based violence as well as unplanned teenage pregnancies. It also addressed the inadequacy of the ABC strategy in addressing HIV infection.          

KHOPOTSO: In order to educate and attract support for a Sexual Rights Charter, people were recruited from across the country and trained as peer educators. They will continue publicising the Charter, which will be translated into all 11 official languages and produced in comic form for younger audiences in their various communities.      

Rev. ZULU: Ngi umfundisi uZulu, gisuka eKZN. Endaweni yaseMtuba’€¦ Lesikhathi ngiya laphaya ukoyo-attenda kui-training abaningi em’€™phakathini, nakubafundisi, nakubazalwane engibaphethe abathandanga. Ngingasho ukuthi kuyini okungenz’€™ukuthi ngikusho lokhu mhlambe noma ngifundise ngamalungelo kwezocansi ngingumfundisi. Yingoba nabantu esibashumayezayo basuka ekwenzeni izinto ezithile. Futhi ngeke sisho sithi lababantu esibaphethe ba-right, ba-good, ukuthi abenzi lutho, abalwenzi ucansi. Nabo bayahamba ngasese mhlambe balwenze ucansi.

TRANSLATION:   I’€™m the priestess, Mrs Zulu from Mtuba in KwaZulu-Natal. When I went for training at WHP a lot of people – the priests that I work with and people in my community, the people that I lead – did not support my decision. You may be wondering why I decided to become a sexual rights trainer as a priestess.   The thing is I realised that even in our congregations people there do have problems that arise from the violation of their sexual rights. Initially in the church we used to believe that if people are in the church, they’€™re good, they don’€™t have those kinds of problems, it’€™s for people out there. But then, we realised that they also have issues relating to sex and sexual relationships. So, by bringing it into church we managed to reach those people.                        

KHOPOTSO: Another educator, Raymond Langa, illustrates that efforts to promote sexual rights are likely to succeed only if men are also involved.

RAYMOND LANGA: The problem we found is men dominate the culture. Women have no say when it comes to sex. In our culture there is some men who believe that whenever a woman is reporting, maybe, (that) she’€™s feeling abdominal pain, which may restrict her to go to sexual intercourse, because the man would say to her ‘€˜I’€™ve paid a lobola for you’€™, you don’€™t have a right. So, you will have sexual intercourse, although you don’€™t feel alright. We have started our own youth organisation where we address these issues. We involve gender equity where the girls also have to learn how to voice their rights in their relationships.        

KHOPOTSO: Some of the educators are HIV positive. Silungile Mntambo learnt that even though she is HIV positive it is critical to protect herself against re-infection with the virus.

SILUNGILE MNTAMBO: I’€™m a young, energetic woman who is living with HIV from 1997. As an HIV positive young woman along the way I’€™ve experienced some difficulties. But after being a Star Trainer for the Sexual Rights Campaign, knowing exactly what sexual rights are and that it goes together with responsibilities I learnt that it is important to understand yourself, know exactly what are your needs and your concerns, then you’€™ll be able to negotiate sexual issues with your partner or anyone you meet with. As an HIV positive young woman who wants to live years and years before reaching an AIDS stage, sexual rights helped me to negotiate condom usage successfully.

KHOPOTSO: The Charter also encourages the economic and social empowerment of women, and promotes the acceptance of same-sex relationships. But how do such ideals get implemented? Zanele Hlatshwayo.

HLATSHWAYO:   What the Charter essentially intends to do is throwing the gauntlet at people. It is saying here are the issues that South Africans are worried about. It’€™s supposed to spur a discussion that it is hoped can influence the practices in your immediate environment as well as policies in your home and workplace as well as in your community. Ultimately, to get a society that is accommodative and enabling so that we can all practise our rights.    

To find out more about the Sexual Rights Charter e-mail: womenhp@sn.apc.org

E-mail Khopotso Bodibe