Gender comprises widely held beliefs, expectations, customs and practices within a society that define ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ attributes, behaviours and roles and responsibilities. Gender is an integral factor in determining an individual’s vulnerability to HIV infection, his or her ability to access care, support or treatment, and the ability to cope when infected or affected by HIV.
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. These norms work against prevention messages that support fidelity and other protection measures from HIV infection. Some notions of masculinity also condone violence against women, which has a direct link to HIV vulnerability, and homophobia, which results in stigmatisation of men who have sex with men, making these men more likely to hide their sexual behaviour and less likely to access HIV services. (See "Women and Girls" and "Men who have sex with men" for more specific information on the impact of gender inequality on vulnerability to HIV).
Gender inequality both fuels and intensifies the impact of the HIV epidemic and is most effectively addressed on the national and community level. In the context of HIV prevention, treatment, care and mitigation, this reinforces the need for interventions that are directed at individual people. Reducing gender inequality requires changing social norms, attitudes and behaviours through a comprehensive set of policies and strategies.
At the 2006 High Level Meeting on AIDS, all member states of the United Nations have pledged “ to eliminate gender inequalities, gender-based abuse and violence” and to “increase the capacity of women and adolescent girls to protect themselves from the risk of HIV infection, principally through the provision of health care and services, including, inter alia, sexual and reproductive health, and the provision of full access to comprehensive information and education.”
Furthermore, as part of the same resolution, all member states of the United Nations have also pledged to “ensure that women can exercise their right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly on, matters related to their sexuality in order to increase their ability to protect themselves from HIV infection, including their sexual and reproductive health… and to take all necessary measures to create an enabling environment for the empowerment of women and strengthen their economic independence; and in this context, reiterate the importance of the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality.
Priority actions to address gender inequalities
Top leadership at every level of society must speak out against stigma, discrimination, gender inequality and women’s empowerment
Laws and policies that protect women and girls against sexual violence, disinheritance and gender discrimination of all kinds, including harmful traditional practices and sexual violence in and outside of marriage must be enacted, publicized and enforced.
Women must be adequately represented in policy-and decision-making on AIDS.
Laws and policies that directly address gender inequality and bias against people perceived to be at heightened risk for HIV, including sex workers and men who have sex with men, must be enacted and enforced.
Changes in laws and policies must be accompanied by adequately funded “know your rights and social mobilization campaigns against gender inequality and HIV related stigma and discrimination; the campaigns should involve organizations of people living with HIV along with all other elements of civil society in their planning and implementation.
- GCWA aims to support Governments to:
- Enact and enforce legislation, policies and programmes that protect the rights of women and girls in terms of gender equality and freedom from violence.
- Expand access to sexual and reproductive health care programmes and integrate HIV into these.
- Promote campaigns and community dialogue to change harmful gender norms, engage men and boys and eliminate violence against women and girls.
- Keep girls in schools and make schools free of sexual violence and exploitation.
- Implement economic empowerment schemes for women, including women care-givers.
- Implement social support programmes for care-givers and orphans, which also engage men and transform care-giving roles.
- Build the capacity of women’s organisations and gender equality organizations as key partners in the development of national AIDS strategies.
- Incorporate gender dimensions into monitoring and evaluation activities, ensuring that data is disaggregated by sex, age and marital status
The latest from the GCWA
27 Jul, 2011|
GCWA Pursuit of Justice Statement
27 Jul, 2011|
The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA) welcomes the recently released UN Women report 2011-2012 Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice. The report highlights that, despite some successes, every region of the world still has laws that discriminate against women. Women’s and girls’ access to justice is intrinsically linked to their ability to cope with the HIV pandemic as women and girls living with HIV are particularly affected by discriminatory laws and practices.
26 Jul, 2011|
Global / women's rights and HIV: Report back on the GCWA session at the 2011 International Women's Summit
The report back from the GCWA activites at the 2011 International Women's Summit is now available on-line. Please click here to read the report: GCWA at the International Women’s Summit.pdf
26 Jul, 2011|
GCWA at the International Women’s Summit 2011
8 Jun, 2011|
At the United Nations in New York, leader are gathering to chart the future of the global response to HIV.
27 Mar, 2011|
GCWA Commission on Population and Development information note
25 Jan, 2011|
Sex Work Criminalisation and HIV
18 Feb, 2010|
MANILA (IPS) - Women and poverty still share an uncomfortable spot on the development matrix of countries across Asia-Pacific that are struggling to end deprivation, according to the newly launched third joint report of the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). "A woman’s face remains the picture of poverty," Dr Noeleen Heyzer, U.N.
10 Feb, 2010|
The overlap between injecting drug use and sex work is a driving force in the so-called “feminization” of Asia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Between 70 and 80 percent of women injecting drug users (IDUs) are involved in some kind of sex work, according to Ratna Mardiati, a former director of the Drug Dependence Hospital (RSKO) in East Jakarta with 14 years’ experience dealing with injecting drug users. “They are not formal sex workers but they sell their bodies when they need money,” she says. Other sources of structural inequality, such as the gender wage gap — which sees Indonesian women earning on
11 Jan, 2010|
World / gender inequality: Fund for gender equality announces more than US$9 million in grants to advance women's economic and p
Press Release Gender Equality Efforts by Civil Society and Governments in 26 Countries to Be Supported New York — The new UNIFEM-managed Fund for Gender Equality announced its initial allocation of more than US$9 million to 27 initiatives in 26 countries today. The recently-established Fund, a US$68 million multilateral initiative, is designed to advance innovative programmes which focus on women’s economic and political empowerment at local and national levels.