- It has been documented that most Gambian women lack the strength or skills to negotiate safe sex or take their own decisions concerning relationship, leading to a higher HIV/AIDS prevalence. Gambian women are also troubled by their high economic dependency, early and forced marriages.
Coercive sex, rape and condoning sexual harassment are also blamed for promoting the easy transmission of HIV/AIDS in a country that has 1.2 percent of its population living with the virus causing an African pandemic.
These resulted in a relatively higher number of HIV/AIDS among the female population in the country.
With an estimated population of 1.5 million people, it is disturbing to know that 54 percent of Gambian women are living with HIV/AIDS. And even more worrying is that most of these people fall within the age brackets of 15 and 25, a study conducted by the country's National Aids Secretariat (NAS) published.
Out of all people living with HIV or AIDS in The Gambia 54 percent are women and 45 percent are men, the NAS study revealed. The high figures among women will definitely shake the country, whose economy depends to a large extent on women. Most Gambian women, especially those in the provinces, work 18 consecutive hours a day.
Researchers believed that the high rate of HIV/AIDS among Gambian women was caused by social, cultural, religious and traditional influences and practices specifically relating to sex and sexuality.
The NAS report came after another study exposed alarming sexual abuse and exploitation in both lower and higher educational institutions in The Gambia. And according to a UNICEF study, 64 percent of sample prostitutes among Gambian women are school girls below the age of 18.
In some cases, the UNICEF study presents proven evidences of students being impregnated by their teachers. The study reveals that pornography, prostitution, early marriage and cross-generation sex between teachers and students have become rampant in The Gambia.
It was found that these acts are common in higher educational institutions where teachers demand sexual favours from schoolgirls who fail their core subjects. There was also evidence of underage prostitution involving school going girls and boys in Gambian schools.
Appalled by the results of the study, UNICEF asked The Gambia government to urgently address these problems if it wanted to ensure a better future for the country's girls and women.
In 2003, The Gambia government legislated the sex tourism act, which bans paedophilia and other sex crimes in the tourism industry. But paedophilia is still in existence in the country, as increasing poverty forces young girls to have sex with people who are old enough to be their grandfathers.
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