HIV/AIDS and the Gendering of Stigma in Tamil Nadu, South India

Van Hollen, Cecilia
December 2010
Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry;Dec2010, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p633
Academic Journal
Drawing on the seminal theoretical work on stigma by Goffman, this article analyzes stigma through the lens of Parker and Aggleton, who call for the joining of Goffman and Foucault to better grasp relationships among stigma, power and social inequality. Studies on the social impact of HIV/AIDS globally have demonstrated that women tend to be blamed for the spread of HIV/AIDS, and as a result, HIV-positive women face greater stigma and discrimination than HIV-positive men. Based on ethnographic research among 50 HIV-positive women in South India in 2002-2003 and 2004, my research supports this standard argument. However, my findings suggest that the gendering of stigma and discrimination is more complex and context specific. The gendering of stigma varies depending on the social context of private versus public spheres. The tendency to stigmatize women is due in part to cultural constructions of gendered bodies and not only to a gendered double standard of sexual morality, as has been previously reported. Even when a cultural argument about women's wayward sexuality is evoked, this rhetoric must be understood in part as a strategy to mask economically motivated responses, rather simply being attributed to sexist ideology per se.


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