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Cultural Practices in Namibia Hinder HIV Prevention, Group Says

December 18, 2006

Cultural practices in Namibia are hampering the "ABC" HIV-prevention strategy -- which stands for abstinence until marriage, be faithful and use condoms -- members of the Women's Leadership Centre in Windhoek, Namibia, said, The Namibian/ reports. According to The Namibian/, dry sex, female genital cutting, initiation ceremonies for women that involve sex and "unorthodox treatment often administered by traditional healers" are practiced in Namibia. Some traditional healers claim that they can cure back aches and infertility by having sex with a woman, and widows must be "freed" from their deceased husband's ghost by having sex with a traditional healer, Elizabeth Khaxas of WLC said. In addition, in some communities, girls elongate their labias by pulling on them and using small sticks, which can lead to vaginal sores that increase the risk of HIV infection. "Girls and young women are taught to mutilate their genitals because men demand it," Khaxas said, adding, "How can girls refuse sex after it has taken them so many years to prepare their bodies for it?" Khaxas called on religious leaders to stop teaching that women are inferior to men. "Our cultures and traditions contain unconstitutional aspects that sustain and promote inequalities between women and men," Khaxas said. The WLC said it aims over the next few years to organize several workshops and conferences to teach Namibian women about their self worth. While HIV/AIDS "wreak[s] havoc amongst our people, it is also giving us the opportunity to address issues of inequalities and oppression that fuel the pandemic," Khaxas said (Isaacs, Namibian/, 12/14).

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