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Pacific women lack power in their relationships

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 12, 2009) – Violence against women is a major factor contributing to the transmission of HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections in the Pacific region, says UNIFEM Pacific's Regional Program director Elizabeth Cox.

Speaking at the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre's Fifth Pacific Regional Meeting on Violence against Women at the Naviti Resort on the Coral Coast, she said women were unable to talk about risks to sexual health in their intimate relationships to the community since they lacked decision-making powers in their relationship.

Ms Cox said men's power over women was often expressed in intimate, sexual relationships.

"Women who insist on the use of condoms or refuse to have sex with their partner because of STIs or because they believe he might have multiple sex partners risk rejection, rape or a beating.

"So too often, they remain silent and worry about the risk of infection and pregnancy," she said.

She said women also were the first of the partners to be tested against HIV at the ante-natal clinics.

If diagnosed positive, women bear the brunt of the blame and suffer severe social and economic consequences regardless of how faithful they have been, said Ms Cox.

She said there needed to be an understanding of gender, human rights and the link between violence against women and HIV transmission.

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