Sexual practices of married women in rural KwaZulu-Natal : implications for the women's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Mngomezulu, Thembeka Mary-Pia.
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Purpose: To explore sexual practices of married women, which make them vulnerable to HIV infection in a rural setting, and the implications such practices have for the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Methodology: An ethnographic approach was used to explore the phenomenon of, which was sexual practices of married women, both ancient and contemporary. Unstructured interviews and focus group discussions were undertaken. The researcher applied the principle of theoretical saturation and a total of fifty participants were included in the study. All the interviews were taped and transcribed. Data analysis was done manually by the researcher, using themes and sub-themes. Findings: Married women engage in short term sexual relationships with secret lovers which are either concurrent or frequent while their husbands are away on migrant labour. A number of factors that cause women to engage in such risky sexual practices were identified. Some of these factors included scarcity of men due to migration and economical resources, the fact that women cannot negotiate safe sex due to gender and cultural factors; limited knowledge of infections particularly HIV/AIDS, life skills including their sexual rights and how to exercises these rights, and economic skills. Recommendations included the designing of an intervention program to sensitise and empower women on factors that make them vulnerable to HIV infection. Conclusions: Married women in the rural KwaZulu-Natal indulge in multiple concurrent or successive extramarital partnerships in the absence of their migrant men. These sexual practices place them in a vulnerable position to get HIV infection as they engage in risky sexual behavior without condom use. They also have fear of being rejected by their secret lovers and their own husbands because of women's economic dependency on men.