Responding to victims' needs
- Legislation should provide access to health care, particularly reproductive health care and HIV prophylaxis. Widows may be survivors of sexual violence and therefore need medical care to address HIV/AIDS, STDs, and other reproductive health complications. Because women in forced marriages, such as levirate or sororate marriages, may have less power to negotiate safe sex practices, their risk of contracting STDs and HIV is heightened.
- National policies and programs on HIV/AIDS should incorporate a human rights and women’s human rights approach. Incorporate programs that promote economic and educational opportunities for women and protect their property, land and inheritance rights into these national strategies.
- Legislation should promote access to justice for women living with HIV/AIDS by establishing accessible and specialized structures (courts, police units and legal aid) to address their human rights violations.
- Laws should support shelters for women who have lost their land and homes to property grabbing. Legislation should provide funding and support for alternative housing to women living with HIV/AIDS and their children. Such housing should satisfy adequate housing standards. See: Section on Right to Adequate Housing. Planners should ensure that women living with or affected by HIV/AIDS should be able to participate in the planning and developing of such housing programs.
- Legislation should provide for public awareness activities and trainings on women’s human rights, non-discrimination and its linkages to HIV/AIDS. In addition to targeting women living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, efforts should aim to educate the general public, community leaders, legal actors, land officials, media, and local and national agencies.
- Legislation should provide for economic opportunities to women living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Programs to promote economic empowerment include appropriate credit schemes, loans and other programs that will facilitate their access to a livelihood. Efforts should ensure access to social services, land, credit, employment opportunities, markets and improved agricultural techniques
(See: Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Shelter from the Storm: Women’s Housing Rights and the Struggle against HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2009. UNDP, HIV/AIDS and Poverty Reduction Strategies, 2002; UNAIDS Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, Economic Security for Women Fights AIDS, Issue No. 3)
UNAIDS Global Coalition on Women and AIDS has documented several promising practices with respect to promoting the human rights of widows living with HIV/AIDS. In Kenya, five widows living with HIV created the Young Widows Advancement Program (YWAP) to counter public stigmatization, address the effects of HIV among widows and help widows protect their property, inheritance and other rights. YWAP provides psychosocial support, support groups, legal aid, paralegal assistance and will-writing workshops. In Tamil Nadu, India, the state AIDS agency collaborates with the Tamil Nadu Corporation for Women’s Development in using microenterprise/savings projects to conduct education on HIV prevention. The program incorporates HIV information into its women’s self-help groups. Eighty percent of the 193,000 rural self-help groups (3 million members) have integrated HIV education into their programs. See: UNAIDS Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, Economic Security for Women Fights AIDS,
Issue No. 3. (See: UNAIDS Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, Economic Security for Women Fights AIDS,
Issue No. 3)
Drafters should also address the needs of widows in post-conflict situations. Widows may have survived sexual assault, suffered physical injuries, be vulnerable to domestic violence, face economic challenges, be acting as the single head of household, have refugee status or be internally displaced, and have lost their right to the marital home, property, and land upon their husband’s death. Widows should be involved in peacebuilding and reconstruction efforts.