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Soc Sci Med. 2007 Mar;64(5):1102-15. Epub 2007 Jan 22.

The condom is an 'intruder' in marriage: evidence from rural Malawi.

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  • 1College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi.


This paper assesses the condom situation within marriage in Malawi with particular attention to people's perceptions about the compatibility of condoms and marriage by analyzing the Malawi Demographic and Health Surveys 1992 and 2000, and via semi-structured interviews with married men and women from three districts in rural Malawi. There are four striking findings. First, condom use is negligible inside marriage. Second, there is considerable talk about condoms, especially among male social network partners. Third, virtually all the discussion of condoms, by both men and women, is in the context of preventing STI/HIV-AIDS infection in extramarital partnerships. Lastly, and critical for this paper, is that initiating a discussion of condom use for preventing infection in marriage is like bringing an intruder into the domestic space. Thus, there is evidence that change in attitudes about condom use may be occurring, but only outside marriage. This evidence concurs with Malawian government policy that advocates for condom use in marriage only if either spouse has more than one sexual partner. The AIDS epidemic is therefore bringing sexual behavior change outside marriage and not within.

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