THE Ghana Chapter of the Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA-Ghana) has lamented the violation of the rights of and the abuse suffered by female traders who travel long distances to the hinterlands to buy foodstuffs from the farms for sale at marketing centres.
It said the extreme vulnerability and the risk confronting the traders, who travel with truck drivers, must be seriously considered and concrete legal and financial measures put in place to protect them from sexual exploitation that left them exposed to the deadly HIV virus and other sexually transmitted diseases.
According to FIDA-Ghana, it was important that those women traders were included in the target groups of the HIV Sentinel Survey so that they would be offered the best medical care.
The Administrator of the Kumasi Office of FIDA-Ghana, Madam Eudora C. Oppong, made the statement when she presented the report of a research conducted by FIDA at a day’s refresher course organised for 25 paralegals trained by FIDA-Ghana in Sunyani.
The programme was on the theme, “Promoting the Rights of Women Affected and Infected by HIV and AIDS”.
She said the research was undertaken in 2007 to find out the legal challenges confronting women living with HIV and AIDS and the fields of study were Ho, Tema, Wenchi and Agomanya in the Volta, Greater Accra, Brong Ahafo and Eastern regions, respectively.
She said the roles played by those women traders, who serve as a link between farmers and consumers, were indispensable and the least the nation could do for them was to ensure their safety.
Madam Oppong said to help prevent the spread of the disease, there was the need to deal with the issue of stigmatisation, which discouraged people from checking their HIV status and also make persons living with AIDS (PLWAs) feel reluctant to disclose their status, thereby compounding the spread of the disease.
The report, therefore, urged healthcare providers and social workers to abide by the principle of confidentiality in accordance with the National HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections Policy and desist from disclosing any confidential information they obtained in the normal course of their work about a client to any other person without the express consent of the client.
Madam Oppong noted that the rights of HIV positive women were violated more than those of men due to existing stereotypes, inequalities and patterns of discrimination against women in society, adding that of the 264,481 people currently living with HIV/AIDS, 58 per cent were females.
She said stigmatisation was more prevalent among HIV positive women and girls to the extent that the reproductive health needs of such women were affected due to stigmatisation, abuse and rejection by their families and communities or dismissal from employment.
She said although statistics from the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) indicated that Ghana’s national prevalence rate stood at 1.9 per cent, the rate in some regions, such as the Eastern Region, were as high as 8.9 per cent.
Madam Oppong indicated that culturally accepted patriarchal power relations and gender norms favoured men, allowing them to have multiple partners and sex on demand, often subjecting women to physical violence if they refused and accelerating the spread of HIV.
In addition, she said the burden of care fell on women who took care of sick family members, often spending their limited resources and time to care for those HIV positive persons who fell sick.
Madam Oppong also said the research brought to the fore the issue of disclosure because the number of married women among the infected group was more than those who were single, divorced or separated, adding that a married woman was more at risk in her matrimonial home because she could not negotiate for safe sex or the use of condoms.