From Ghana: "Virginity Clubs" blame women for HIV
I came across a disturbing piece by Dinah Kpodo in the Ghanaian paper Public Agenda
, published on January 20. It gives a ground's-eye view of how damaging the United States' dogmatic promotion of abstinence-only programs can be to girls and women.
In it, Kpodo writes:
It is amazing how fast virgin clubs are springing up in the country.
Different groups, non-governmental organizations and even secondary schools are actively involved in the formation of these clubs. These clubs are said to be formed to educate members on topics such as HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy etc. Interestingly, members of these clubs are only girls....
It baffles my mind anytime I see young girls paraded on television as virgins fighting against HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) with the boys nowhere in sight on this campaign. Virginity clubbing, virginity testing or virginity promotion places the responsibility of practicing sexual restraint on women and girls ONLY, meanwhile in our society, women have no control over their own sexuality, they even lack the power to negotiate for safe or protected sex.
How are these virgins found? ... I heard a leader of one of these virgin clubs stating that the girls are tested and even examined by medical doctors before they are permitted to be members of the club; that is if they pass the test.
Virginity testing is nothing but discrimination and violence against women that violates their rights. The process of establishing one's virginity status violates women's rights as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995. No one actually
has the right to insert fingers, instruments, and other objects into a female's vagina to check if her hymen is intact or not.
Simply put, virginity testing is a gender approach that places the onus of sexual restraint on girls only and sends the signal that it is alright for a man to infect his newly wed virgin with the deadly virus. It also gives the impression that women are responsible for the spread of the virus so if measures are put in place to control their sexual conduct HIV would be an issue of the past.
In some Ghanaian communities for instance, a boiled egg is inserted into the young girl's vagina and the ease or difficulty with which it enters would indicate if she is a virgin or not. Readers the rest is left to your imagination.
Since sexual intercourse is not the only means of breaking ones hymen, what then happens to a young girl who does not have her hymen intact due to several reasons such as sporting activity? Is she turned away from the club, how does she explain to herself, her family and friends? Who bears the disappointment and shame? What about those girls who were defiled (we are aware of the high rate of defilement and incest in the country)? Are they further blamed for the injustice that was done them?
Both parents and young women have been made to believe that this is the best way to protect their daughters and themselves from teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections. Interestingly, these girls are expected to stay chaste till they get married; however, we forget that they would be getting married to men who did not go through any form of sexual restrain, control or discipline. Don't they still stand the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS after several years of abstinence, or are the boys secretly maintaining virginity and keeping 'holy'?
She ends with the following question, one that should be put directly to Randall Tobias and others charged with implementing Bush's global AIDS plan:
Since sexual intercourse accounts for 85% of transmission of HIV/AIDS and under normal circumstances sex takes place between a man and a woman, why then is the pressure to prevent its spread placed squarely on the shoulders of women?