|UNGASS, June 2008: WWW Ask Government and Donors to Keep their Promise to Women and Girls|
KEEP YOUR PROMISE END HIV AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. NOW!
Around the world, women and girls continue to be at an alarming and growing risk of HIV infection as a result of persisting social, cultural and economic subordination, as well as pervasive violence in their homes, communities, schools, workplaces, streets, markets, police stations and hospitals. An HIV positive status may also increase the risk of violence as women and girls become all-too-easy targets for stigma, discrimination, neglect rights violations and violence. Increasingly, we are also witnessing intersecting crises such as the unprecedented rise in food prices, natural disasters, political unrest and social disruption; all of which disproportionately impact poor women and girls and increase their risk to impoverishment, violence and HIV.
At the United General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001, governments committed to promote and protect women’s human rights and reduce women’s vulnerability to HIV&AIDS by eliminating all forms of discrimination including violence against women. Seven years on, women are still waiting! Research in 16 countries  to assess governments’ progress on their commitments to gender equality, women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, violence against women, shows national governments have not strengthened a gender-sensitive national AIDS response, nor have they developed and accelerated national strategies for women’s empowerment and the promotion and protection of women’s full enjoyment of all human rights. Some of the key findings of this research include:
While in Uganda, efforts have been made to guarantee the formal participation of women in many decision making entities; in most other countries there is limited or no formal representation of women.
Most countries do not have prevention programmes designed specifically for women, much less committed to promoting and protecting women’s human rights. In fact, in some countries there is evidence of prevention related campaigns reinforcing gender stereotypes rather than challenging them.
Access to female condoms is found to be limited resulting from high production costs. Even male condoms that should be freely available are not especially in rural areas, as distribution largely depends on the efficiency of health systems.
In many countries health services are centralized, and resources are concentrated in urban centers, making it difficult for indigenous and rural women to access these services.
In all countries, PMTCT policies exist, however, programme coverage is not satisfactory. Moreover, even when prophylactic ARVs are available, pregnant women reportedly are not counselled and/or confidentiality of test results or their sero-status is not maintained.
Many countries report HIV positive women experience severe discrimination and rights violations in health systems. These range from forced sterilisation and abortions to HIV positive women being denied access to information on safe sex practices and prevention products. The health providers’ disapproval of HIV positive women exercising their sexual and reproductive choices is also widespread.
Most countries have legal and policy frameworks to address violence against women; however, all countries report poor implementation of these policies and enforcement of laws that protect women and girls from violence.
They also point to the lack of states’ ability and will to prevent and redress violence. Which is manifested in the under resourcing of anti-violence programmes including, the lack of specialised including medico-legal services for survivors of violence, poor coordination between different services, absence of safe houses, absence of accessible, affordable and appropriate criminal justice systems. In addition, they report a lack of systematic data gathering on the extent and impact of violence against women by the state. Most countries also report that this is exacerbated for women sex workers, women living with HIV, and lesbian and transgender women.
As governments meet to monitor progress on the Declaration of Commitment, we ask them to keep their promise to women and girls. Women Won’t Wait!
WE ASK ALL GOVERNMENTS TO KEEP THEIR PROMISE TO WOMEN AND GIRLS:
1. Reaffirm strongly the agreed goal to provide universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care by 2010. All governments and agencies must agree a funding plan for universal access based on fair share contributions and clearly lay out who will pay how much of the 60 billion promised last year. 2. Articulate or refine a clear policy framework that gives priority to violence against women and girls, HIV/AIDS and their inter-linkages. This should ensure violence against women and girls is addressed across the HIV prevention, treatment and care spectrum and that these policies are translated into action plans and assessments and programming.
7. Put together programs and services to prevent violence and to support survivors of violence. This includes designing specific actions for each type of HIV&AIDS and sexual and reproductive health programmes such as: ü Training of health care and service providers (with particular attention to those providing PMTCT, given the increased risk of intimate partner violence pregnant women face) to recognize and respond to the signs and symptoms of violence as a routine part of HIV&AIDS testing, treatment, care and support. ü Education programs about and the provision of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and emergency contraception to survivors of sexual violence.ü Distribution of female controlled prevention methods, including the distribution of the female condom to women, men and transgender people. ü Anti-violence education programmes operating in all communities where gender-based violence occurs.
2001 UNGASS Resolutions
Commitment to ensuring women’s participation:
Goal 37 – …address gender and age-based dimensions of the epidemic…involve partnerships with civil society and the business sector, and the full participation of people living with HIV/AIDS, those in most vulnerable groups and people at risk, particularly women and young people…”
Commitment to gender sensitive prevention programmes:
Goal 52 – “By 2005, ensure a wide range of prevention programs which take into account circumstances, ethical and cultural values…including information, education and communication in languages most understood by communities… expanded access to essential commodities; expanded access to voluntary and confidential counselling and testing,…and early and effective treatment of sexually transmittable diseases.”
Commitment to reducing parent-to-child transmission:
Goal 54 – “By 2005, reduce the proportion of infants infected with HIV… by ensuring that… pregnant women accessing antenatal care have information, counselling and other HIV prevention services available to them, increasing the availability of and providing access for HIV infected women and babies to effective treatment to reduce the mother to child transmission of HIV, as well as through effective interventions for HIV-infected women, including voluntary and confidential counselling and testing, access to treatment, especially anti-retroviral therapy and, where appropriate, breast-milk substitutes and the provision of a continuum of care;”
Commitment to women’s empowerment and elimination of violence against women:
Goal 61 – “By 2005, ensure development and accelerated implementation of national strategies for women’s empowerment, the promotion and protection of women’s full enjoyment of all human rights and reduction of their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS through the elimination of all forms of discrimination, as well as all forms of violence against women and girls, including harmful traditional customary practices, abuse, rape and other forms of sexual violence, battering and trafficking of women and girls.”
 Monitoring Ungass´s Goals for The Sexual and Reproductive Health of Women, Villela, W.; Nilo, A. Gestos- Brazil, 2008. Countries: Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru, Mexico, Nicaragua, Thailand,South Africa, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela. Access at: ungassforum.wordpress.com