Stop Beating Around the Bush: Rights of Women and Girls Living with HIV are Overlooked

By March 20, 2023 March 29th, 2023 SKPA

Sara Thapa Magar

March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), a day celebrated to recognize the achievement of women in equality, justice, peace, and development. This day also marks as a call to action to accelerate progress towards achieving women’s equality. This year, the International Women’s day is centered around the theme of #EmbraceEquity.

In embracing equity, we must remember women living with HIV (WLHIV) are still frequently experience gender-based violence, denial of services, intimate partner violence, mental abuse, legal barriers to access services, forced and coerced sterilization and abortion. This is due to the stigma associated with HIV and women’s do not seek support. Women are often too afraid to seek support because they don’t have information or knowledge about their rights including lack of enabling environment to speak about their problems. Women who seek support, often go through criminalization, denials and delayed in accessing services just because of her HIV status. This has a severe impact on the quality of life of women and girls living with HIV.

Women living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence. Intimate partner violence is a serious issue in our region because it is overlooked due to existing culture in the society. In fact, power dynamic and patriarchy play vital role in the society that directly impacts on women’s sexual reproductive health and rights as well as controls her choice and decision making on her own body. These women often stay silent about the issues they are facing because either they are economically dependent with their partners/family or because of existing cultural barriers.

Over the period in order to protect the rights of women and girls, changes have been made in law and policies but still these are not enough to the enjoy their fundamental rights. WLHIV still faces the legal barriers to access services. Along with that, legal identity is also a major issue for woman living with HIV. Being WLHIV and no legal identity makes difficult to access services, such as healthcare, education, economic and legal aid. All of these factors make harder for women’s wellbeing including to protect herself from exploitation, that leads to more vulnerability towards violence against women.

In order to address the issues faced by girls and women living with HIV, the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICWAP) is advocating for change in different platforms. To further empower girls and women from Asia and the Pacific region, ICWAP is utilizing social platforms to conduct online campaigns in issues such as gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and feminist leadership. In the SKPA-2 project, ICWAP, is supporting SKPA countries by providing technical assistance to activities related to removing human rights and gender barriers. Through these initiatives, ICWAP hopes to create an equitable and just society for girls and women living with HIV.

About the Contributor

Sara Thapa Magar (She/Her)

Human Rights & Gender Officer
International Community of Women living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific

Sara is an activist from South Asia who is advocating for the needs and rights of children, young people and women living with HIV. Sara is fighting for equal representation of young people, women and girls in all sector, including women-focused program and stigma and discrimination free right to health treatment for all. 

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