'People insult her as a sexy woman': sexuality, stigma and vulnerability among widowed and divorced women in Oromiya, Ethiopia

Publication Abstract

Newton-Levinson, Anna, Kate Winskell, Berissa Abdela, Marcie Rubardt, and Rob Stephenson. 2014. "'People insult her as a sexy woman': sexuality, stigma and vulnerability among widowed and divorced women in Oromiya, Ethiopia." Culture, Health and Sexuality, 16(8): 916-930.

Widowed and divorced women, sometimes referred to as 'female heads of household', are one of the most impoverished and marginalised groups in the world. Widowed and divorced women are often overlooked in the literature or are seen primarily as economically or socially marginalised beings; their sexuality is rarely addressed. In an effort to understand the experiences and challenges faced by such women, we conducted and analysed four focus-group discussions, seven in-depth interviews and four interactive activities with 32 widowed and divorced women and with 25 other community members in Oromiya, Ethiopia. Findings indicate that women experienced high levels of community stigma in relation to their sexuality. Participants' fear of community stigma, and the actions they took to avert it, further served to marginalise them within their community and had negative impact on their economic, social and health support systems and, ultimately, on their overall well-being. Future interventions need to acknowledge sexual stigma as a driving force in the many challenges these women face. Further programmatic work is needed to reduce stigma related to widowed and divorced women's sexuality and to decrease their vulnerability to rape.

10.1080/13691058.2014.921838

Country of focus: Ethiopia.

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