Rural women, HIV and human rights abuses in South Africa: a critical review

SOURCE: Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2010
TITLE AUTHOR(S): V.Reddy, C.Munthree, L.Wiebesiek
KEYWORDS: GENDER EQUALITY, HIV/AIDS, HUMAN RIGHTS, RURAL COMMUNITIES, WOMEN
DEPARTMENT: Human and Social Development (HSD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 6638

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Abstract

A theme that reflects rural women's experiences is appropriately captured in an Amnesty International (AI) report titled "I am at the lowest end of all": Rural women living with HIV face human rights abuses in South Africa (2008). The study reported in the publication, undertaken in two provinces, namely Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, examines patterns of human rights abuses of women who are exposed to the risk of or are already living with HIV in rural contexts with the twin challenges of widespread poverty and unemployment. Drawing on the testimonies of 37 women, the study explicates experiences of intimate partner/ stranger violence by women facing intermittent periods of economic instability and hunger in the context of poverty, stigma and low social status. This study highlights systemic factors which affect women's ability to realise their right to health. Its value is that it prioritises an under-researched and often excluded community (namely rural women), demonstrating a theoretical and empirical flaw often captured in the critical literature, which resists the romanticisation of rural life. This review article critically evaluates this report, both in its conceptual and empirical engagement with contemporary theories and case studies of gender and rurality. Issues related to rurality, power, difference, HIV and AIDS and human rights are analysed to suggest strengths and weaknesses in the report, and the relevance of its findings for ongoing research, activism and policy change in South Africa.