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close this bookYoung Women: Silence, Suspectibility and the HIV Epidemic (UNDP, 10 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGender as an independent variable for hiv infection
View the documentSilence
View the documentAge as an independent variable for hiv infection
View the documentAnatomy as destiny?
View the documentSituational factors
View the documentThe unheard scream
View the documentThe prophetic voice
View the documentAn action agenda
View the documentBreaking the silence
View the documentChanging the operational research agenda
View the documentSanctuaries
View the documentSanctions
View the documentSafety
View the documentRestructuring gender
View the documentThe circle of the dance
View the documentReferences

Restructuring gender

The ability of young women to protect themselves from infection becomes a direct function of power relations between men and women and, in particular, of men's sexual identity. Gender is formed in families but constructed by societies36. To change accepted patterns of male behaviour and expected patterns of female behaviour, therefore requires community organizing and collective action.

Individual families and societies must change how they value girls. The more women are valued, the better they will be fed and nurtured, given access to health services and education, provided with the skills required for economic autonomy and have their rights honoured, in particular to land and property, especially through inheritance.

This valuing of women will make it possible for women to value their own bodies, to improve their genital health and to have their genital infections and conditions diagnosed and treated, for cultural practices such as infibulation which increase women's likelihood of infection to be changed and for women to live through pregnancy and childbirth with minimal risk of death or lifelong disability32.

Families must also change what they value in boys and men so that men will be less likely to place themselves and others at risk of infection. Boys and men, not only girls and women, must become the guardians of compassion, of respect for others, of healing, connectedness and of mercy.