Gendered Intersections between Labia Elongation, Child Marriage, Bride Price, Polygamy and HIV Infection

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the links between harmful practices such as labia elongation, child marriage, bride price, polygamy and HIV infection. Women are more commonly infected with HIV due to men’s promiscuity and violent sexual behaviours that draw on patriarchal gendered socialisations that promote male supremacy and female subordination rendering women and girls vulnerable to HIV. This gender ideology is justified and reinforced through restrictive norms that devalue women and girls. I argue that HIV, due to the violent ways in which it is transmitted, should be regarded as a form of violence alongside LE, child marriage, bride price and polygamy. It is important to link these forms of violence because they exist due to the same structural inequalities that grant men power and control over women and girls. This thesis is based on 30 in-depth qualitative interviews with development practitioners and their stakeholders in Harare, Venda, Musina and Beitbridge. I also conducted 2 focus group discussions with 10 women from the community in Beitbridge. Analysis was done thematically, using an inductive approach and also deductively for those themes from literature review that I tested in my data. Findings suggest that top level development practitioners do not appreciate the nuanced relationship that exists between these practices and HIV. Development practitioners and their stakeholders recognise the role social, gender and religious norms play in increasing women and girls’ vulnerability to HIV infection however this knowledge is not translating into programmes. Instead, the development sector silos each form of violence. Furthermore, programming does not approach end VAWG through a strategy that links these forms of violence to the underlying gendered inequalities. My thesis argues for a more holistic and mainstreamed approach to programming in order to maximise opportunities to end this violence. Approaching end VAWG through a focus on one type at a time weakens overall efforts in development to achieve gender transformation. I therefore propose a mainstreaming tool that integrates all of these practices and challenges the norms that sanction them in HIV response models.
Date of Award17 Jan 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorTamsin Bradley (Supervisor) & Leila Choukroune (Supervisor)

Cite this