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J Law Med Ethics. 1993 Summer;21(2):206-16.

Reproductive freedom and violence against women: where are the intersections?



Violence against women--in the form of rape, sexual abuse, and battering--impairs women's ability to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and, thus, constitutes a major obstacle to reproductive freedom. Men's superior strength and control over economic resources make acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) prevention strategies based on encouraging women to insist on condom use unrealistic; moreover, they may place some women at risk of further abuse. A growing number of studies suggest that childhood sexual abuse is associated with psychological issues in adulthood that increase vulnerability to drug addiction, prostitution, and other risk factors for AIDS. Other links between male violence and women's health include battering during pregnancy and female circumcision. Even the health care system has been implicated in practices that forcibly undermine women's self-determination, e.g., forced sterilizations, unnecessary cesarean sections, and inhumane treatment of women who are deemed to be promiscuous. Health activists are urged to be more responsive to the needs of many women to make sexual and reproductive decisions that enable them to avoid domestic violence. For example, Depo-Provera, despite controversies over its safety, may be an ideal choice for women whose partners object to contraception. Reproductive health care providers are further well placed to identify victims of child sexual abuse, rape, and battering and provide counseling. Finally, women's health advocates and AIDS activists are urged to unite to demand the development of a safe, effective female-controlled virucide that could give women protection against sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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