African Visions: Literary Images, Political Change, and Social Struggle in Contemporary Africa

By Cheryl B. Mwaria; Silvia Federici et al. | Go to book overview

9
Women, AIDS and the Female Condom: Preventing HIV in Southern Africa

Ida Susser

This chapter focuses on suggestions that have emerged from research in southern Africa--in Durban, Natal in 1992 and 1995 and in Namibia in 1996 and 1997-- concerning the possibilities for women to negotiate safe sex in terms of AIDS.

In considering resources available to women in different political and economic circumstances, I analyze women's perceptions of the female condom. This provides one window for the unraveling of the complex interaction between economic independence, political mobilization, and women's ability to address sexual issues in public and private settings.

Women's access to political power and forms of mobilization have affected their knowledge of sexuality and the construction of femininity. This research challenges stereotypes of female sexuality as uniformly passive and static and demonstrates changes in women's ability to promote preventive methods in the face of the HIV epidemic.

In all societies the requirements of safe sex interfere with the role of women as bearers of children which in turn affects women's status and opportunities ( Stein 1990). Thus, studies of HIV prevention and community mobilization are directly concerned with the politics of reproduction and the changing roles of women in development. We need to examine the access women have to sexual negotiation and the resources they can draw on to protect themselves in sexual interactions ( Schoepf 1992; Farmer, Lindenbaum and Good 1993; Gupta and Weiss 1994; Susser and Kreniske 1997).

Women's views of their own sexuality and reproduction as well as their representation by others vary by class, cultural identity and local experience but also change over time ( Stoler 1991; Martin 1987; Ginsburg and Rapp 1991; Gallagher and Laqueur 1987; Susser 1991). This work traces possible changes in concepts of femininity and female sexuality with respect to HIV

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