Cultural values turn impediment

National, Normal


STRONG cultural values have been the biggest obstacle to address HIV/AIDS and gender equality in Papua New Guinea.
That was the challenge faced by people living with HIV (PLHIV) and organisations that were dealing with these issues in response to the AIDS epidemic, the second PLHIV summit in Port Moresby was told yesterday.
Angela Mandie Flierl, who is gender adviser to the Australian government in its efforts to fight against the disease through AusAID, said that violence against women was in PNG long before HIV/AIDS arrived.
Therefore, to control it, violence against women needed to be eradicated, she added.
She said that people had grown up with different views about the roles men and women should play in the society.
Flierl said that it was traditionally accepted that men were superior and that was something which must be changed.
She said that as long as this tradition persisted, women would continue to take second place in society and women living with HIV would remain right at the bottom.
During question time, a participant from Bougainville commented that culture was indeed a barrier and it was about time the message was brought right down to the village chiefs and community leaders for them to understand.
He said gender-related violence was happening everywhere and women were too frightened to speak out about it publicly.
He added that the message must trickle right down to the villagers that violence against women, gender inequality and HIV/AIDS must be addressed.
Another participant called on all men to stand up and fight for women’s rights, to which he got a big round of applause following his remarks.
He agreed with the presenter and his friend from Bougainville that culture was an obstacle in preventing the transmission of HIV among women.
He called on the men to help fight for women’s rights to decrease the rate of HIV infections especially among young women.