Multiple concurrent partnerships and gender power dynamics: Findings from a survey of church-goers in the Eastern Cape, South Africa
Poster presentation at 5th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, Cape Town, 19-22 July
Tun,Waimar; Sohaba,Nathi; Sheehy,Meredith
Publication date: 2009
The practice of having multiple concurrent partnerships is deeply entrenched in culture and is often inextricably linked to gender power differentials. Power imbalances in sexual relationships can hinder healthy couple communication and negotiation for safer sex and facilitate gender-based violence, which in turn can increase women's vulnerability to HIV.
As part of baseline data collection for a partner-reduction HIV prevention program in churches in Mdantsane Township in the Eastern Cape Province, interviewer-administered questionnaires were completed by 592 people (450 women and 142 men) attending regular church services. We examined sexual relationship control, intimate partner abuse, infidelity (self and partner), and attitudes and practices around multiple concurrent partners among the 133 women reporting a spouse or cohabiting partner. Questions from the Sexual Power Relationship Scale (Pulerwitz 2000) were adapted to measure relationship control.
Approximately 20 percent reported partner's infidelity (perceived by respondents), 16 percent reported any kind of abuse by partner (psychological abuse: 12%; physical abuse: 10%; sexual abuse: 8%). Over one-quarter of the women were found to perceive communicating to a partner about fidelity difficult. The mean relationship control score was 31.3 (SD 6.2) on a scale ranging from 13 to 39, with higher score reflecting more equitable relationship. The Cronbach's alpha was 0.82 for the sexual relationship control scale. Partner's infidelity was significantly associated with less equitable relationship (p< 0.01), greater perceived difficulty of communicating about fidelity (p< 0.01), and experience of any kind of abuse by partner (p< 0.01).
Any concurrent partner reduction program in South Africa must also address related issues of gender-based violence and gender power dynamics. A partner-reduction intervention targeted at both men and women and that incorporates changing gender norms toward more equity and couple communication and conflict resolution skills-building through church leaders is currently being evaluated by the Population Council.