The link between gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV/Aids is usually rooted in the power imbalance between men and women.
This was one of the findings of research conducted by Goitseone Leburu, whose master’s and doctoral studies, both from the North-West University (NWU), revolved around different aspects of GBV.
Her master’s study, completed in 2015, explored the interconnectedness of GBV and HIV/Aids, and how the two social problems manifest, intersect and affect the lives of many women.
That study investigated the experiences of 30 women from registered non-governmental organisations that assist GBV victims and people living with HIV/Aids.
The role of power
Goitseone’s research found that the power relations in these women’s past intimate relationships was extremely unequal. Most women stated that they were much younger than their partners and unemployed, which made them economically dependent.
When it came to women who earned an income, the study found that a number of them surrendered their decision-making power due to cultural pressure.
“The apparent cultural allegiance for the participants came at a price. Their culture silenced the discussions on topics involving sex, sexuality, GBV, the negotiation of condom use, the practice of safe sex and HIV/Aids,” Goitseone says.
The study further revealed that all participants, together with other women in their communities, experienced various forms of abuse within their intimate relations but especially sexual violence. She adds that, consequently, women prefer to suffer in silence than expose their households’ “dirty violence linen in public”.
According to Goitseone, sexual violence against women manifests in various communities and within families in the high prevalence of HIV/Aids. She also found that alcohol abuse is a major contributing factor to the spread of HIV/Aids and GBV.
Having established a link between GBV and HIV/Aids, Goitseone went on to do her PhD at the NWU, focusing on how victims can be empowered. Her research was titled “Evaluating social work services within the Victim Empowerment Programme in addressing gender-based violence in North West Province”.
With 7,7 million people living with HIV in South Africa, and South African women being five times more likely to be killed by their intimate partner than women in other countries, the implications of these two interconnected social problems are enormous, highlighting the necessity for research such as Goitseone’s.
*Goitseone Leburu was supposed to be graduating in May 2020 with a PhD but due to the lockdown the graduations were postponed.