Male partners who use their power over women to prevent the use of safe sex measures and contraception leave them susceptible to health risks like HIV/Aids and once a future of financial dependence where women have children the actually can’t afford to provide for.
Human Rights advocates said these trends are a growing concern, particularly in more traditional communities and poorer communities where male dominance and financial power tend to be controlling factors.
People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) said they face these kinds of struggles daily at their shelters.
Palesa Mpapa, Legal and Advocacy Manager at POWA, said they often come across cases where women’s partners threaten to leave them for use of contraception.
“In some cases they are on pills and this becomes a problem because you can’t hide the medication. We’ve had women in their 30s with three to five children, not working, no skills to self employ. Chances of exiting and finding independence in these circumstances are slim, she said.
Mpapa said is it very important for women to get to a point where they don’t negotiate. “Once you can not negotiate safe sex and contraception, you are susceptible to HIV/Aids and a financially dependent future (in the case of having children with these partners).”
Mpapa said the issue goes back to women not being able to negotiate their sex and reproductive health due to cultural issues. “Sex is for the pleasure of a man - that is the society we come from. Parents even tell women that these are not decisions for you to make. We have to educate women. It’s a lack of knowledge. Most times they don’t even know they are victims of abuse.”
Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Judge Navi Pillay, said internationally this is a problem.
She said it is also one that needs to be seen in the broader context of it actually being a violation of a woman’s right to autonomy over her body.
“A woman's entire life is being destined under this pattern of dominance. Dominance is expressed not only through violence, but in ensuring she doesn’t express individual decision making - including autonomy over her own body. Domestic violence has to be considered in full respect of a woman’s rights. It’s the physical, psychological and emotional abuse that impairs their understanding of who they are.”