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Regional Issue Brief: Women, HIV and the Law

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New York, UNDP, 2011

This paper explores positive and negative legal and policy environments in the context of women and HIV by analysing gender equality legislation and policies, and by providing a brief gender-conscious overview of specific HIV-related health legislation and policies in sub-Saharan Africa. The paper covers the regions of the continent most affected by HIV and AIDS, and is divided into several parts, each determined by the main challenges related to women in Africa. Chapters 3 and 4 provide brief background information on the HIV situation among women in Africa, and give a very short review of international and regional standards related to gender equality and responses to HIV among women. Chapter 5 is dedicated to exploring constitutional and statutory guarantees of gender equality, their implementation, and the way in which general public health laws protect women’s rights to equitable access to health care services, including HIV prevention, treatment and care. It also briefly explores the situation of women who face multiple vulnerabilities, such as sex workers, women who use drugs, minorities, etc. Chapter 6 provides an overview of legislation and practices that may reinforce discrimination against women in the context of personal laws, such as marriage and family laws, inheritance laws and property laws. Chapter 7 explores laws, policies and implementing practices governing sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls, and chapter 8 provides an analysis of laws and policies protecting women from violence, including sexual violence. The paper examines positive and negative examples of relevant laws and policies and provides a brief analysis of their possible influence on women in the context of HIV. Some chapters are divided into several sub-sections, which aim to provide a picture of the laws, law enforcement practices, and positive and negative aspects of the legislative framework on the topic. Legislation, policies and implementing practices, which raise potential problems are discussed in the ‘areas of concern’ section. A short explanation of why certain policies may be harmful for individual human rights and public health goals is provided, as well as links to international standards.