Many readers will throw a glance at the title of this article and think- “Really?” Yes. Really! Let us take a look at the how’s and why’s.
A woman has the power within her to create, nurture and convert or revamp. A woman is a full circle, far more powerful than she herself realises!
Dutifully performing multiple roles as caring mothers, devoted wives, doting daughters and competent workmates women are the backbones of any society without doubt. Unfortunately, they are also the undervalued, undermined and taken for granted factions of the society. Living under the invisible bondage of prejudice that has been passed onto generations for centuries, causing the still prevailing restraints, women are forced to bear the brunt of social evils- gender inequality, oppression, financial dependence and many more.One-third of women population of the world have faced physical violence based on gender at one point or other in their lifetime.
Gender refers to the norms and expectations of the society about the behaviours of the two genders-male and female. The basic fundamental factor of these expectations is the power assigned to each gender. The power balance always tips towards men which in turn translates to the acceptance of superior power of men and male dominance in heterosexual interactions; a power by which men control the factors like when, where and how such interactions should occur.
Several researches conducted by agencies like ICRW have exposed the ways by which the power imbalance in the relationships manage to impale women rendering them weak and defenceless in their interactions with the “superior sex” thereby increasing the vulnerability/susceptibility of women in HIV/AIDS.
Here are some of the unsaid but expected “behaviours” of women towards intimate physical relations with men, by the society.
1. Women are expected to be passive, submissive and even ignorant, only then they are considered as “good”.
2. Traditionally, in many societies, unmarried girls are expected to be virgins.
Because of the above two “expectations”, women are not only poorly informed about the risks of physical relations and ways to reduce them, but also are inhibited about accessing treatment or help due to the stigma associated.
3. “Motherhood” is considered as the fulfilment of femineity in such societies. Therefore, the question of barrier methods and such safer options which confer protection from sexually transmitted diseases are rejected outright.
4. Violence against women make them vulnerable both directly and indirectly, by sexual coercion.
5. Economic dependence of women make them vulnerable when they exchange favours for money without paying heed to the risks.
6. In some cases, innocent women have been deliberately given the disease through forceful contact because of absurd belief that “interaction with a virgin” will “cure/cleanse” the disease.
It is very saddening fact that many women continue to live with stigma and rejection of the society, having contracted HIV unknowingly through no fault of theirs. They face all sorts of atrocities and injustice, having a very limited access to justice or knowledge about their own rights.
The single most effective way is the empowerment of women.
As far as HIV/AIDs is concerned, empowerment of women is not an option but the remedy to a grave disease that can cause suffering and deaths of innocents.
This is the only way to ensure gender equality.
This is the only way to ensure better education for women.
This is sole way to ensure their economic independence.
This is the only way to ensure the most basic of rights- right to live healthy!
All these will in turn make women more confident, more aware of their own rights and equip them with the strength to stand up and fight for those rights. In short empowerment gives the women their identity!
Many have this misconception that empowering women is translated as more power to women as compared with men! What is aimed by women empowerment is the elimination of gender inequality by ensuring equal power to women, so that they take charge of their own lives confidently and stand up for themselves. It is time everyone realised that empowering women also guarantees in effect the rights/health/power/economy of the households, communities and nations as well.
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