|Below, Zambiain women wait in line at the Lusitu food distribution center …|
LUSAKA (AFP) — Human Rights Watch (HRW) Tuesday accused Zambia’s government of failing to stop escalating violence against women and prevention of access to antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for AIDS sufferers.
A researcher for the global human rights watchdog, Nada Ali, told reporters at a briefing that Zambia lacked specific legislation on violence against women despite the high number of cases reported in recent years.
She said most women in Zambia are scared to undergo HIV testing because of fear of disclosure of their status to their abusive partners who obstruct them from accessing treatment.
“Unless the Zambian government introduces legal and health system reform and removes barriers to HIV treatment that women face, gender-based abuses will continue to shatter the lives of countless Zambian women,” Ali said.
In a report titled “Hidden in the Mealie Meal: Gender-based abuses and women’s HIV treatment in Zambia”, HRW said 17 percent of Zambia’s adult population is living with HIV and 57 percent of them are women.
Maize-based mealie meal, is Zambia’s staple food.
“Health care facilities can play a key role in responding to violence and other abuses of women. Unfortunately, this is not happening in Zambia,” Ali said.
United Nations secretary-general’s special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa Elizabeth Mataka urged women organisations in Zambia and other parts of the continent to begin pushing for the implementation of legal reforms to address the problem.
“Let us go beyond talking now. We need to push for implementation so that these problems can be addressed,” Mataka said at the briefing.
HRW acknowledges that Zambia is one of the few African countries that have made an overall progress in scaling up HIV treatment by offering free life-saving ARV drugs.
“But ignoring these abuses will mean that Zambian government’s goal of universal access to HIV treatment by 2010 will fail,” Ali warned.
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