Archive for the ‘Gender’ Category

By Heba Ijaz

Since Nigeria was declared endemic-free last year, Pakistan has become one of two remaining countries where polio is still an endemic viral infection.

Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus that primarily affects children. The virus spreads mainly through the fecal-oral route, although transmission through oral and nasal secretions can also occur. It resides mainly in the throat and intestines, and in certain cases, can enter the bloodstream to invade the brain and spinal cord, leading to paralysis. Contaminated water and food sources along with poor personal hygiene are significant contributors to polio transmission. Two types of vaccines are available today: Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) is a live attenuated version and Intravenous Polio Vaccine (IPV) is an inactivated version. (more…)

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By Arianna Nisonoff

Condoms are the key to an exorbitant number of global health problems. We need to be making more use out of this simple and cost effective innovation. When used correctly, they can be used effectively to stop the transmission of numerous diseases, control population growth (and in turn poverty), and empower women. They are a simple solution that could change the world once people gain better access on top of accepting them culturally.

Normally, when people think of using a condom to prevent disease they think of HIV and AIDS; but as recent discoveries have shown new diseases, such as the Zika virus, can also be sexually transmitted.7 Zika virus is a disease of current epidemic proportions. Largely seen in South America, this disease is transmitted by mosquitos and causes fever, joint pain, red eye and other symptoms.2 Many governments and religious figures are now recommending the use of condoms to prevent the spread of Zika virus. Not only can a male pass on Zika virus to a women when having unprotected sex, but there is also a chance for mother to child transmission to occur, which can lead to birth defects. Birth defects such as microcephaly, which results in abnormal brain growth and potentially impact mental development in children, and impaired vision, due to damage to the retina or optic nerve and could lead to potential blindness, can occur.5, 6 Protected sex could prevent so many of these birth defects and eliminate the sexual transmission of this disease.

Disease prevention is a huge benefit of condoms, but they can also do so much more. Condoms are a major player in family planning. The poorest countries have the highest population growth rate.4 When the average family size in a community is 7 children, there is no future. Making contraception accessible everywhere and decreasing population growth is a major factor in ending poverty.8 Limited family planning is concurrent with low female education rates.4 Not only does implementing greater condom use improve family planning, but this access to contraception is just one step in building female autonomy. Having a large number of children poses a health risk to women, and many of these women in developing countries having these large number of children report having more babies than they want and starting earlier than they want.4 Condoms are a step in empowering women and letting them have the number of children they want, while also giving them more opportunities and freedoms.1 In a lot of low income countries women have very few rights. In an article by Nina Lakhani, women in El Salvador are being imprisoned for 30-50 years on the count of murder for Zika related miscarriages.3 This was mind-boggling and absolutely heart breaking to me. This is a huge injustice to these women and this sort of treatment needs to be stopped. Fighting the legal system in this country needs to be done but would be an extremely difficult task. The least that should be done is promoting condom use so that the Zika virus is not transmitted to these women and they are not wrongfully imprisoned because of a disease related miscarriage.

Condoms need to be better taken advantage of, and condom education and distribution should be a larger global health intervention. A TED Talk by Mechai Viravaidya (https://www.ted.com/talks/mechai_viravaidya_how_mr_condom_made_thailand_a_better_place?language=en#t-103083), shares a success story of how condoms saved Thailand. With the original intention of population control, condoms were then used to prevent the HIV and AIDS epidemic in that country. The average number of children per family decreased from 7 to 1.5 in 25 years; and incidence of HIV declined by 90%. Viravaidya and his team were able to get these astonishing results by making the condom as accessible as possible, having them at coffee shops and giving them out in various community settings. They received blessings from important religious figures that were widely accepted, which made Thai people more accepting of the condom. Condom education became a major part of education in middle school and in high school, to a point where children where the teachers. These are just a few steps that many current low-income countries should be taking. Condoms have the potential to improve standard of living, and should therefore be better utilized as a tool to combat disease, poverty and to protect women’s rights.


Work Cited


  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Family planning/contraception. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs351/en/


  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Zika virus. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html


  1. Lakhani, N. (2016, February 12). ‘Zika-linked’ miscarriages pose jail risk for women in El Salvador, activists say. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/feb/12/zika-linked-miscarriages-pose-jail-risk-women-el-salvador-activists-say


  1. Nadakavukaren, A. (2011). Our global environment a health perspective. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press.


  1. Saint Luis, C. (2016, February 9). Study in Brazil links Zika virus to eye damage in babies. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/10/health/study-in-brazil-links-zika-virus-to-eye-damage-in-babies.html?ref=topics


  1. Saint Luis, C. (2016, January 31). Microcephaly, spotlighted by Zika virus, has long afflicted and mystified. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/01/health/microcephaly-spotlighted-by-zika-virus-has-long-afflicted-and-mystified.html


  1. Tavemise, S. (2016, February 18). W.H.O. recommends contraception in countries with Zika virus. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/19/health/zika-virus-birth-control-contraception-who.html?_r=1


  1. Viravaidya, M. (2010, September). Mechai Viravaidya: How Mr. condom made Thailand a better place for life and love . Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/mechai_viravaidya_how_mr_condom_made_thailand_a_better_place?language=en#t-103083


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By Michelle Leon

Although many may argue that women’s rights have made significant improvements and has led to a more equal society, I think people often ignore populations across the globe that are still behind in women equality. And when specifically looking at populations at risk for HIV, women are at higher risk than men. And I think the most important factor for women’s HIV risk across the globe is women subordination to men that is still seen today. And it doesn’t just occur when contracting HIV but subordination also affects women’s chance to treat HIV.

I came across a NY Times article speaking about a new vaginal ring that will reduce HIV rates in African Women. According to Denise Grady, this new vaginal ring slowly releases an antiviral drug (dapivirine) thus protecting women from HIV sexual transmission 1. Studies on African women and this vaginal ring resulted in a 27% reduction in infection rates 1. The ring can stay in the vagina for a month and it is cheap. But while I read these results I could only help but wonder why such a device is needed. In the United States, contraceptives and condoms are so prevalent and accessible that I couldn’t understand why such a device was necessary. And then I thought… women in parts of the world don’t have access to contraceptives and can’t protect themselves from sexual transmission of HIV.

Of the 37 million people who are infected with HIV, half of them are women, and most are from the sub-Saharan region of Africa 1. The reason this vaginal ring is important is because men don’t have to find out that women are using it. With this ring, women do not need to ask for permission or ask their partners to wear a condom and even when men deny women the ability to take contraceptive pills, the ring helps protect them from HIV transmission. Additionally, once placed inside, neither she nor her partner will feel it, preventing the possibility it might disturb the sexual experience 1. But such a ring would be irrelevant in a world where women were equal to men in various aspects of life. But the reality is that, women suppression is still common today and I think it is the driving force for why women are at higher risk for HIV. There are various reasons why women subordination leads to higher rates of HIV infection and decreases their rates of survival for those living with the disease.

First off, marital violence and gender-based violence prevent women from protecting themselves from sexual transmission 2. In a study conducted in South Africa, women who experienced partner violence were 50% more likely to get infected with HIV than those who do not experience such violence 3. Secondly, women in countries with high rates of HIV (e.g. sub-Sahara Africa) have less access to healthcare services or have none 2. Lack of access to sexual health services indicates that women have less ability to look out for their health and even when women have access to some services, stigma against women can result in refusal. Consequently, when pregnant, women infected with HIV may not receive the appropriate care to reduce transmission to her child. And lastly, girls’ lack of access to education also drives their higher rates of HIV infection. According to UN’s 2004 publication on women and HIV/AIDS, one study of 32 countries found that women who had some secondary education were five times more likely than illiterate women to have knowledge of HIV 4. Additionally, illiterate women were four times more likely to believe that HIV could not be prevented.

So as you can tell by now, most of these factors that increase women’s risk for HIV infection, are intertwined with women suppression. And I think that is what needs to be addressed and be top priority in developing countries and regions of the world that continue to have high rates of HIV. Women suppression needs to be dealt with through education and spread of knowledge. Women in countries known to have women subordination need better HIV testing, better antiretroviral treatment for pregnant women, better school-based interventions to reduce stigma against women and help change cultural norms about the role of women.






1 Grady, D. (2016, February 22). Vaginal Ring With Drug Lowers H.I.V. Rates in African Women. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/health/vaginal-ring-hiv-aids-drug-dapivirine.html


2 Women and HIV/AIDS | AVERT. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-social-issues/key-affected-populations/women


3 Jewkes, R. et al (2010) ‘Intimate partner violence, relationship power inequity, and incidence of HIV infection in young women in South Africa: a cohort study‘ The Lancet 376(9734):41-48


4 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (2004) ‘Women and HIV/AIDS: Confronting the Crisis

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By Aarthi Chezian

Over 117 million girls are missing in the world today, lost to femicide, the murder of women simply because they are women. [1] These 117 million girls do not exist because of cultural systems that deem them as worthless or unnecessary burdens. Every minute, four baby girls are lost to sex-selective abortion and female infanticide [2]—that’s 2.1 million girls who never had a chance to live just because they made the mistake of being female. Of these 117 million girls, 43 million are from India. [3] In India, the state of Tamil Nadu was a surprising addition to the list of areas where female infanticide drastically affected the sex ratio. Tamil Nadu, like most other South Indian states, is considered one of the better states in regard to women’s rights and social support. However, researchers found a 4% decline in the sex ratio over only two decades. [4] Why were girls in a relatively progressive part of the country disappearing?

It’s A Girl

A major motivation behind sex-selective abortion and female infanticide in Tamil Nadu is the cost of raising a daughter. Culturally, daughters come with a price tag that many families either cannot afford or would prefer not to waste on a child that was meant to leave and marry into another family. However, sons are culturally viewed as the inheritors of the family’s assets, the ones who take care of the family as the parents age, and continue the lineage. Historically, this created a culture that encouraged the devaluation of women. The pattern of skewed sex ratios began to show in the 1980s due to the neglect of female children through malnutrition, lower quality of care, and restricted access to healthcare. This grew into infanticide and, with the appearance of sex-determining technology, foeticide, over the next two decades. [5]

Soon after the Forum against Sex Determination and Sex Pre-selection (FASDSP) began in Mumbai, researchers discovered reports of female infanticide at levels that affected sex ratios at the taluk, or county, level in the rural districts of Madurai, Salem, and Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu. [1] They found that the killing of newborn baby girls was concentrated in the low-caste Kallar communities and the high-caste Gounder communities. One community could not bear the cost of a female child and the other did not want the burden or expense of raising a daughter within upper caste restrictions. As the Tamil Nadu government began to notice these increasing trends of female infanticide; they created the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PNDT) Act of 1994, which became the PC (Pre-Conception)-PNDT (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act of 2003. [1] The legislation made sex-determination and subsequent abortion illegal and made both the physicians and the family liable. Unfortunately, it was not effective, and sex-determination tests are still performed just with more secrecy and at a higher price.

Tamil Nadu also instituted two programs to address the crisis: the Girl Child Protection Scheme and the Arasu Thotil, or Cradle Baby program, in 1992. The Girl Child Protection Scheme involved placing Rs 100 into a state fund for every baby girl enrolled into the program, and, as the child grows and attends school, more money would be added to the fund. At 21, if the girl remains unmarried, she would receive Rs 20,000. [1] In theory, this program sounds incredible. It relieves parents of the financial burden they fear, facilitates higher education for women, and discourages child marriage. However, the participation in the program came with restrictions: in order to qualify one must have no sons, be sterilized, and must fall below the poverty line. [1] Not the easiest criteria to fill, nor the most appealing incentives. It also failed to address the loss of female children from wealthier communities.

Arasu Thotil allows parents to leave unwanted children in empty cradles located in hospitals, welfare centers, and government offices. The children are then sent to orphanages where other families can adopt them. This program provided a home and a life to the newborn baby girls being left to die abandoned in the streets and in trashcans. Yet, data has shown that while there is an increase in female children being taken up by the program, the killings are continuing. In a way, the program has legitimized the abandonment of female children. [6] The problem with both programs is that neither attacks the root of the problem. The primary cause of female infanticide and foeticide in Tamil Nadu is the culture that perpetuates the devaluation of women. Government initiatives should be tackling how to redefine women’s value in Tamil society. If women are no longer viewed as burdens, they will be treated with the humanity they deserve.




  1. “Gender-biased Sex Selection.” United Nations Population Fund. UNFPA, 31 July 2015. 8-21 <http://www.unfpa.org/gender-biased-sex-selection&gt;.
  2. Bare Branches, pp. 112-113, 157.
  3. Christophe Z. Guilmoto, Sex Imbalances at Birth: Current trends, consequences, and policy implications; UNFPA Asia and Pacific Regional Office, 2012, p. 47
  4. John, Mary. “Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates, and Future Directions.” UN Women. <http://asiapacific.unfpa.org/sites/asiapacific/files/pub-pdf/Sex-Ratios-and-Gender-Biased-Sex-Selection.pdf&gt;.
  5. Srinivasen, Sharada. (2012) Daughter De cit: Sex Selection in Tamil Nadu. New Delhi: Women Unlimited.
  6. Ball, Nita. “India’s Cradle Baby Scheme Hopes to End Female Infanticide.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 03 Dec. 2013. <http://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-cradlebabies-idUSBRE9B206P20131203&gt;.

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By Ali Reese

“Approximately once every ten seconds, a girl somewhere in the world is pinned down. Her legs are pulled apart, and a local women with no medical training pulls out a knife or a razor blade and slices off some or all of the girl’s genitals. In most cases, there is no anesthetic.”- an excerpt from “Half the Sky”

According to the World Health Organization, there are about 140 million young girls and women around the world living with physical and physiological scars of female genital mutilation (FGM). In Africa alone, it is estimated that more than three million girls are at risk of FGM each year. WHO defines female genital mutilation as an act that “comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. This practice is most common in the western, eastern, and northeastern regions of Africa and in some countries in Asia and in the Middle East. FGM is a violation of human rights and an extreme form of gender inequality and injustice against women. (more…)

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Two universities on the same street, both with “Boston” in their titles, but with two radically different policies towards student sexual health, and in particular the provision of condoms and contraceptives.

At Boston College, a Jesuit university on Commonwealth Avenue in Chestnut Hill, MA, students who have been distributing free condoms to their fellow students have recently been told to cease and desist, or face disciplinary action. http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/2013/03/27/boston-college-threatens-action-condom-giveaway/9o2UKvn9czUK6QFA3lzfTM/story.html  (more…)

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By Sadia Arshad

Letters. Detective Interactions. Judges. Complaint forms? Sexual assault is a stigmatized violent crime competing against the system. The majority of these perpetrators, detectives, and lawyers are men. Whether people realize it or not, male supremacy in America is far from quotes in history books. It is a reality for several sexual assault victims. Their stories are ignored by law enforcement, pestered by judges, and mocked by society. With more cultural awareness and monitoring of law enforcement, sexual assault in America is slowly becoming less of a joking matter and more of ensuring safety, but there is a long way to go.


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By Nicole Buechler

140 million women worldwide are suffering consequence of Female Genital Mutilation1. In November 2012, the UN General Assembly’s Human Rights Committee adopted a resolution on Female Genital Mutilation. Female circumcision is detrimental to women’s health; it is considered a severe human rights violation, because it is an invasion of women’s bodies and permanently injures children who are forced to undergo the non-medical procedure. This practice, a form of sex discrimination, is deeply rooted in religious and societal frameworks in parts of Africa and the Middle East. The American Academy for Pediatrics is reassessing its policies on Male circumcision for the first time in 13 years. Opponents of this practice believe that it is barbaric and liken it to FGM practices. Male circumcision began as a traditional practice as well, but it has turned from a religious right of passage into a medical procedure with health benefits. I am writing this article to those who oppose these practices for the sake of gender equality, arguing that these practices can be considered similarly as equal rights violations..


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Human trafficking, also known as modern day slavery, is something that has been frequenting the media. Sex trafficking is a social justice issue as well as a huge health issue that happens globally, where most attention has been brought to Asia, but it also happens right here in the United States. (more…)

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When you and other family members take special care of my mothers food and care during pregnancy, it makes me happy and I feel secure and comfortable.

This is what a letter to Om Prakash, a soon to be father in India, read. The letter was written from the perspective of his unborn child as part of a program called Sure Start which aims to involve men in their wife’s pregnancy and help fathers to understand what is required of them to ensure their child and wife survive. The letter pleads to the father-to-be and asks him to ensure positive health behaviors in his wife during pregnancy and alerts him to warning signs that the woman may need medical attention. The letter had such a strong effect on Om Prakash that he immediately left the area where he was living and working and returned home to his pregnant wife. When she fainted days after his return, the knowledge Om Prakash had gained from the letter helped him to realize she needed medical attention and because of this, he was able to make the important decision to get her medical attention. Because he did, both his son and wife are healthy today. (more…)

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