Gender equality, a well-defined by-product of human development, always entrenches inclination on how to focus attention on women empowerment. Simultaneously women empowerment confronts challenges consecutively in translating the responsibilities to gender equality into action. Gender discrimination is the prime source of endemic poverty leading to skyrocketing HIV prevalence. With a view to making gender equality a reality as a core commitment, women empowerment has to be the stepping stone to sustainable development.
HIV/AIDS epidemic is raging in Africa and mounting all over the world mostly due to gender discrimination, stigmatization and unsafe sex practice. To make the spread of epidemic flagged, widening gender gaps must be combated. Nowadays young women and girls are at a much higher risk than men. As per the findings of surveys and case studies conducted in Africa, adolescent girls are 5-6 times more likely to be infected by HIV virus than boys.
Taking an inclusive approach to gender awareness, people should be stimulated to move towards a common interest for sexual rights. Sexuality comprising sex, gender identities, amusement, sensualism as well as reproduction is considered as the cornerstone of being human all over the life through experiencing and sharing thoughts, beliefs, perception, values, fantasies, excitement, desire, interest, attitudes, praxis, behavior, relationships and so on. In the name of gender equality, sexuality may be guided positively and creatively by social, economical, biological, legal, ethical, racial, political, historical, religious, psychological and cultural factors interwoven inextricably. As a result, it would be easy to take any kind of promotional activities fruitfully for reducing vulnerabilities to STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and HIV/AIDS.
Sexual and reproductive ill-health results in dire poverty led to widespread vulnerabilities to HIV/AIDS. Sexual and reproductive health problems account for about 20% of ill-health of women globally and 14% of men occurred owing to lack of appropriate sexual and reproductive health. In Saudi Arabia, approximately half (46 per cent) of HIV infection was eventuated due to unprotected sex in 2005. All are mostly the consequences of gender discrimination attributed by religious dogmas, social ill-beliefs and monopolistic male hegemony intertwined with unsafe sex practices.
According to the social development specialist Saiful Islam Robin, “It should be realized that there is no alternative to develop and enhance life skills of vulnerable girls and women to cope with epidemic. They may be assisted on the various levels to become engaged in grooming their confidence and organized. At the same time, their voices should be allowed to be heard loud and clear. Thus the collective effort of women is born with the sense or purpose that they will be stirred up to share perceptions improving their access to reproductive health related information and services.”
Gender equality helps vulnerable women to be benefited from poverty reduction, activities for sustainable development, access to information & communication technology as well as HIV prevention. As a cross-cutting dimension of human development, campaigning for gender equality underpins human rights protected in law and practice. It supports fruitfully capacity development of women enhancing women’s participation in development activities.
As per the findings of a recent research entitled ‘Role of Poverty Reduction to Reduce Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS in Bangladesh’ initiated by Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallayan Foundation, “To track how epidemic often widens when vulnerability deepens, gender mainstreaming in poverty reduction strategies has to integrate multi-disciplinary approach specially focusing on good governance and gender equality through promoting participatory resource planning and internalizing HIV/AIDS prevention into overall development initiatives. Poverty is closely associated with illiteracy and women’s so called participation in development programs. As a result, vulnerability to HIV/AIDS is fueled promoted by gender discrimination and power imbalances between male and female.”
An essential fact is that everybody should be committed to gender mainstreaming. Gender mainstreaming is the keystone in human development. So every development program like HIV/AIDS prevention should be deliberate in providing support to establish human rights that women may be benefited equally from gender neutral development strategies.
Ref: UNDP, WHO, UNAIDS, Family Care International