KINGSTON, Jamaica – Executive director of the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), Dr Denise Chevannes, is expressing concern that many married Jamaica women are prisoners in the sanctity of their bedroom, where their health is potentially at greater risk than that of prostitutes.
There has been a decline in the HIV-prevalence among Jamaican sex workers (prostitutes) and many are believed to be better able to negotiate conditions under which sex takes place, more so than many women who are married.
According Chevannes, the evidence shows that many women secure in the sanctity of marriage are at greater risk of contracting HIV, imprisoned as they are by cultural norms.
“A married woman, her husband coming home at 2:00 every morning, where has he been? You think he’s been out negotiating business deals? That woman, if she starts to say to her husband, ‘We need to start using a condoms’, the first thing he’s going to say to her is: ‘What are you doing, why I should have to use condoms?’,” Chevannes told The Sunday Gleaner.
“There are very, very few women who will be able to insist, and I want to tell you, even a married woman who has her own job and is more or less economically independent still desires that social validation of being in a partnership with a man.
“And many of them go into denial (but) they are not able to insist and to negotiate the conditions under which safer sex takes place, so many of them are exposed. Some of those women are in the church, and then when you have the gender-based violence on top of that …,” added Chevannes.
She said the NFPB is considering expanding its work into general population groups, especially among those persons who think they’re not at risk.
“They have a low-risk perception and they are the ones at elevated risk – more than they know. At least a sex worker knows she is at risk, a man who has sex with other men knows he’s at risk. That churchwoman doesn’t know she’s at risk,” lamented Chevannes.