Sometimes it is somehow difficult to reach a healthy balance between the understanding of indigenous traditions and full respect for Human Rights. Ancient practices such as arranged marriages, female circumcision, no right to speak of women, oppression of women, and female abuse, just to name a few, are practices that today are unfortunately part of the reality of many indigenous women not only in Latin America, but in the world.
It is not a science fiction movie or much less an urban legend, today many women are still being forced to get married at early ages, many of them are forced to have sex, and to run a home, even without taking into account their personal opinion. Such practices, against Fundamental Rights, has endangered the lives of many indigenous girls and women, who due to their culture are perceived only as sexual objects. Many indigenous cultures currently continue to oppress their women, without even realizing the risk they might be exposing them.
In an interview with Yina Rodríguez, an indigenous Colombian woman with HIV from Zenú ethnicity and Coordinator of Red de Mujeres Populares Tejiendo Vidas, Director of the community-based organization for indigenous people Sueños de vida, and Representative of Red de Jóvenes Positivos de América Latina y el Caribe, states the following:
“Being a woman predetermines your role within the community, although my husband at that time was an old man, I accepted him because I have to get marry, and without thinking much about it, I got my first child, a special treasure, but actually I didn’t want to be a mother due to my premature of the situation”
The condom use is usually frowned upon in indigenous communities, even is the man who decides whether to use it or not. Raising awareness about condom use in these communities has been a challenge for Yina and the organizations she belongs to. However, hard work and dedication always pay off. “With the support of various agencies we are helping reduce stigma, discrimination and many myths around HIV and AIDS. We are making a difference.” Said Yina.
On the other hand, the University of Antioquia developed a course aimed at training communities in HIV care and prevention focused on indigenous populations. Furthermore, other regional workshops were carried out aimed at Wayuu women. “Bringing these workshops to remote rural areas has been a challenge, sometimes you have to walk more than an hour to get there, because there is no access through means of transport. However, the satisfaction of bringing useful information about HIV prevention is priceless to me.” Said Yina.
It is critical to deeply analyze and respect traditions and indigenous cultures. However, no tradition, however ancient it may be, should be against the Fundamental Human Rights, which were proclaimed over 50 years ago to seek equality among all human beings regardless of race, color, origin or religion.
Indigenous women have the right to fully enjoy their sexuality, let’s help make that possible.