Are Women at the Centre?
A critical review of the new NSP response to women’s sexual and reproductive rights
The protection and advancement of women’s rights, especially women’s sexual and reproductive rights, are critical aspects of effective responses to HIV. However, a societal context filled with gendered norms and expectations around sex and sexuality severely limits women’s access to and enjoyment of sexual rights and choices, while at the same time, societal expectations of motherhood, compromise women’s rights to make informed reproductive choices. It is this very same societal context that also largely determines women’s risks to HIV exposure and transmission, as well as to violence and abuse; their access to sexual and reproductive health services; and ultimately the extent to which available programmes and services are ‘beneficial’ to women. Thus, effective and rights-based responses to women and HIV must as much recognise women’s sexual and reproductive rights, as they must respond to women’s sexual and reproductive health needs. At the same time, the societal context in which these rights are claimed and services are accessed needs to be addressed and transformed for the national response to women and HIV to be effective.
One of the recognised challenges of the national AIDS response has been the lack of adequate programmes and interventions aimed at protecting and advancing women’s sexual and reproductive rights and health needs in the context of HIV.11 The new National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB, 2012 – 2016 (NSP) launched on 01 December 2011, making it thus crucial to review the new policy document designed to strategically guide the national response to HIV for the next five years.
It is within this context that this review examines the new NSP from a lens of women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and raises the question as to whether or not the national response to women and HIV is indeed positioned to effectively address women’s realities, risks and needs based on and in the context of HIV.
Written and designed with civil society stakeholders in mind, the aim of this review is to provide an ‘advocacy tool’, a ‘resource’, and ‘food for thought’ on some of the pertinent aspects for effective rights-based responses to women and HIV.
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Last Updated: 6/1/2013