A recent study in Cambodia has found that equality in marriage can help protect women and children from HIV infection.
The United Nations Development Found for Women (UNIFEM) in collaboration with Cambodia's Ministry of Women's Affairs (MoWA) Friday released early findings of a study called Power Relations in Contemporary Cambodian Marriage.
According to the study, unequal power relations between married couples are putting Cambodian women at more risk of contracting HIV.
The findings show married women in Cambodia do not feel able to talk about sexual issues with their partners. These issues include the use of condoms to protect themselves and their newborn children from HIV.
Moreover, many women do not feel able to refuse sex with their partners, even though they know their husbands are engaging in risky behaviors and sex outside marriage, according to the study.
About 40 percent of new infections in Cambodia are the result of husband to wife transmission, and 30 percent of infections are occurring in children born to these women.
According to the Ministry of Women's Affairs, this clearly demonstrates the gender dimensions of the HIV epidemic in Cambodia and the need for more effort to protect women and children.
With only 1 percent of married couples using condoms, the importance of empowering women to have safe sex has to be a central part of effective prevention, according to Ngin Lina of the National AIDS Authority.
"Men's responsibility in marriage can reduce the risk of HIV infection among women in Cambodia. Above all, husbands need to understand that women's right to a life free from violence is their human right," said Kim Sore of the Cambodian Men's Network.
"We all recognize that women's human rights have to be respected. The question now is how to turn this commitment into concrete actions that empower women to have control over - and decide freely on - matters relating to their health and well-being, including their sexual health" said Jean D'Cunha, regional program director of UNIFEM.