Susceptible Lives: Gender-based Violence, Young Lesbian Women and HIV Risk in a Rural Community in South Africa

[Resourcel URL]

Go to Resource

[Relevance]

This article is relevant to development and global/public health practitioners and researchers interested in equitable health care delivery because it focuses specifically on the intersecting identities of young lesbian women in rural South Africa. This not only sheds light on an under-researched topic (lesbian women and HIV) but also demonstrates that rural lesbian women are at greater risk of GBV.

This study was conducted to address the common misconception in South Africa that lesbian women are immune from contracting HIV due to their sexuality. The study explores the linkages between perpetration of hate crimes and gender-based violence against lesbians, and HIV prevalence. Homophobia and heterosexism in South Africa mean that lesbian women are at a heightened risk of experience sexual and gender-based-violence. The study uses syndemics theory to reveal the interrelationship between GBV and HIV and how the interactions between the two can create an excessive burden of a disease on an individual that is typically aggravated by marginalisation.

Not only did the researchers seek to explore and under-researched field of study (HIV, GBV, and lesbian women), but also to focus on lesbian women in rural areas. There is a common misconception among researchers in this field that LGBTIQ+ people in rural areas are more likely to hide their identities/sexualities, and thus less likely to experience homophobic/heterosexist hate crimes. This study found the opposite to be true: all eight interview respondents, young lesbian women between ages 19-32, had experienced GBV in some capacity, ranging from physical, sexual, and emotional violence as well as community and institutional violence.

By applying syndemics theory to the case study, the authors determined that lesbian women are more, not less, susceptible to HIV due to intersecting forms of violence and discrimination.

The article concludes with a review of the current state of HIV-related health care available to lesbian women in South Africa. It highlights the need for community engagement through outreach campaigns and education, particularly directed at health care workers, to improve reception of health-care needs of marginalised communities.

[Quote]

"Generally, GBV, especially rape, has been identified as one of the major risk factors for HIV infection. However, many studies on lesbian women have not addressed the link between GBV and HIV among this sexual minority group. Studies on the link between GBV and HIV have focused mainly on heterosexual women and overlooking lesbian women."

Most Popular Resources

Beginner's Guide

No such thing as neutral: Understanding the implications of COVID-19 for communities with diverse SOGIE in the Global North

This Think Piece is by Kirsty McKellar, one of Edge Effect’s 2020 interns. Kirsty has recently completed her masters of Development Studies...

We deserve human rights: Interview with Emma Yaaka

Emma Yaaka (he/him) is an LGBTIQ+ advocate who has worked to provide medical services and information to LGBTIQ+ refugees in Kenya and...

This study was conducted to address the common misconception in South Africa that lesbian women are immune from contracting HIV due to their sexuality. The study explores the linkages between perpetration of hate crimes and gender-based violence against lesbians, and HIV prevalence. Homophobia and heterosexism in South Africa mean that lesbian women are at a heightened risk of experience sexual and gender-based-violence. The study uses syndemics theory to reveal the interrelationship between GBV and HIV and how the interactions between the two can create an excessive burden of a disease on an individual that is typically aggravated by marginalisation.

Not only did the researchers seek to explore and under-researched field of study (HIV, GBV, and lesbian women), but also to focus on lesbian women in rural areas. There is a common misconception among researchers in this field that LGBTIQ+ people in rural areas are more likely to hide their identities/sexualities, and thus less likely to experience homophobic/heterosexist hate crimes. This study found the opposite to be true: all eight interview respondents, young lesbian women between ages 19-32, had experienced GBV in some capacity, ranging from physical, sexual, and emotional violence as well as community and institutional violence.

By applying syndemics theory to the case study, the authors determined that lesbian women are more, not less, susceptible to HIV due to intersecting forms of violence and discrimination.

The article concludes with a review of the current state of HIV-related health care available to lesbian women in South Africa. It highlights the need for community engagement through outreach campaigns and education, particularly directed at health care workers, to improve reception of health-care needs of marginalised communities.