Cultural Norms and Sexual and Reproductive Health


What are Cultural Norms
y Individual to each country, society and community y Rooted in history, politics, religion, music,

language and geography of a group BUT are still dynamic y A set of established rules evolved over time that govern the moral conduct, education and defining attitudes of a group of people. y They govern actions and behaviours from childhood to old age

Examples of Cultural Norms
y y y y y y y y y y

Monogamy/Polygamy Male and Female circumcision Characteristics of masculinity and femininity Bride price Early marriages Varying marriage ceremonies Emphasis on virginity Rituals of celebration Taboos on open discussions of certain topics Can be both harmless and harmful depending on the µoutsider view¶

When Cultural Norms Impact SRH
y Many cultural norms governing sexual and moral

conduct can affect peoples SRH especially in the era of HIV

When Cultural Norms Impact SRH
Question to the group: How have the following affected peoples SRH in the Zambian context or elsewhere?
y y y y y y y y

Early marriages Discourses of masculinity and femininity Bride price Male and female circumcision Rules surrounding the discussion of SRH Attitudes to method of contraceptive use Traditional medicine Dry sex

Negative Impact of Cultural Norms on SRH
µHow do you abstain from what is part of you?...we can¶t stop having children. With or without AIDS the pressure from husband and extended families is beyond the women¶s control in this culture¶, (Ntseane and Preece, 2005:9). µJust look at the colour of the condom, it shows it is from the west: it is another tactic of wiping Africans from the face of the earth. Unless you show me a factory of condoms in Botswana I can¶t believe it does not have AIDS¶ (Ntseane and Preece, 2005:10).

Strategies when Dealing with Cultural Norms & SRH
y Work with or work against cultural norms ± What is

feasible? y Working with: Polygamy can either be a hidden or acceptable cultural norm. Polygamy can increase all partners risk to HIV and STDs without condom use. A strategy that works within this norm would be to promote condom use but also to limit the number of partners and encourage each person to stay within the same multiple relationship rather than having different partners every week. y Working against: Dry sex has no social benefits for those involved but is simply a male preference yet it increases women's and men's vulnerability to HIV & STDs. Education on the negative impact of dry sex within the male and female community, in combination with advocacy and strong political will could work against this practice.
Continued .

y The µlife-cycle¶ approach when dealing with

cultural norms and practices y This means educating all age ranges from youths to elderly, E.g. sensitisation on violence against women, must be conducted on all age ranges. If you only educate a child from 10-16 on GBV and they see the older men in the community practicing GBV they will be less likely to heed the education. y Need consensus of leaders/respected people in a community on objectives of program-issue of been viewed as an outsider enforcing foreign ideas
Continued .

y Harmful cultural norms will not change

immediately. Problems arise when project views as a success then months later the practice remergesM&E vital y Cultural sensitivity is vital in any program dealing with SRH

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