Colonialists may be to blame for high HIV in women – study
A new study suggests Kenya’s colonial past has contributed to the higher rates of women living with HIV compared to men.
More women than men are now HIV-positive in the country, and the number of new infections among women is also higher.
The peer-reviewed paper – Legal Origins and Female HIV – looks at different African countries including Kenya and concludes that the legacy of the legal system of the former coloniser affects HIV rates.
The Kenyan legal system is descended from the British common law system, which historically had weak property protections for women.
“Women in common law countries are less able to negotiate sex with their partners. Even if they suspect their partner may be HIV positive, they are less able to refuse sex,” says the paper, by Siwan Anderson of the Vancouver School of Economics, which is pending publication in the American Economic Review.
In Europe and United States, HIV rates are higher among men than women.
This is the first study to correlate the common law system and its historically weak property protections for married women to high HIV prevalence.
Kenya’s heavily patriarchal traditions, and physical reasons, also put women at a higher risk.
At least 6.3 per cent of Kenyan women live with HIV compared to 5.5 per cent men, according to the National Aids Control Council.
Anderson’s paper proves that countries that use the common law system have significantly higher female HIV rates compared to countries that adopted the civil law traditions.
Civil law is the legal tradition of continental Europe, including France, Belgium, Spain and Italy which each had colonies in sub-saharan Africa.