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‘Disrespectful men, disrespectable women’: Men’s perceptions on heterosexual relationships and premarital sex in a Sri Lankan Free Trade Zone - A qualitative interview study
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health, International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH). (Internationell sexuell och reproduktiv hälsa/Larsson)
Department of Community Medicine, Sri Jayawardenapura University, Sri Lanka.
Department of Epidemiology and Global Health, Umeå, Umeå Center for Gender Studies (UCGS).
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health, International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH). (Internationell sexuell och reproduktiv hälsa/Essén)
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2015 (English)In: BMC International Health and Human Rights, ISSN 1472-698X, E-ISSN 1472-698X, Vol. 15, 3Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Gender norms have been challenged by unmarried rural women's migration for employment to urban Sri Lankan Free Trade Zones (FTZ). Men are described as looking for sexual experiences among the women workers, who are then accused of engaging in premarital sex, something seen as taboo in this context. Increased sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) risks for women workers are reported. To improve SRHR it is important to understand the existing gender ideals that shape these behaviours. This qualitative study explores men's perspectives on gender relations in an urban Sri Lankan FTZ, with a focus on heterosexual relationships and premarital sex. Further, possible implications for SRHR of women workers in FTZs are discussed. Methods: Eighteen qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with men living or working in an urban Sri Lankan FTZ and were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Two conflicting constructions of masculinity; the 'disrespectful womaniser' and the 'respectful partner', were discerned. The 'disrespectful womaniser' was perceived to be predominant and was considered immoral while the 'respectful partner' was considered to be less prevalent, but was seen as morally upright. The migrant women workers' moral values upon arrival to the FTZ were perceived to deteriorate with time spent in the FTZ. Heterosexual relationships and premarital sex were seen as common, however, ideals of female respectability and secrecy around premarital sex were perceived to jeopardize contraceptive use and thus counteract SRHR. Conclusion: The 'disrespectful' masculinity revealed in the FTZ is reflective of the patriarchal Sri Lankan society that enables men's entitlement and sexual domination over women. Deterioration of men's economic power and increase of women's economic and social independence may also be important aspects contributing to men's antagonistic attitudes towards women. The promotion of negative attitudes towards women is normalized through masculine peer pressure. This and ambivalence towards women's premarital sex are undermining the SRHR and well-being of women, but also men, in the FTZ. Awareness and counteraction of destructive gender power relations are essential for the improvement of the SRHR of women and men in the FTZ and the surrounding society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 15, 3
Keyword [en]
Masculinity, Free Trade Zones, migrant women workers, sexual and reproductive health and rights, qualitative, Sri Lanka
National Category
Environmental Health and Occupational Health
Research subject
International Health
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-221578DOI: 10.1186/s12914-015-0040-4ISI: 000350253900001PubMedID: 25889367OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-221578DiVA: diva2:709548
Available from: 2014-04-02 Created: 2014-04-02 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Living Up to the Ideal of Respectability: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Implications for Unmarried Migrant Workers, Single Mothers, and Women in Prostitution in Sri Lanka
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Living Up to the Ideal of Respectability: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Implications for Unmarried Migrant Workers, Single Mothers, and Women in Prostitution in Sri Lanka
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis aims to gain a deeper understanding of relationships and sexuality of women at risk of social exclusion in Sri Lanka and the risk of violations of their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) that they might face. Individual qualitative interviews with migrant women workers (n=18) and men (n=18) in the Free Trade Zone (FTZ), women facing single motherhood (n=28) and women formerly involved in prostitution (n=15) were conducted. Conceptual approaches included gender, social navigation and SRHR. The interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis, qualitative content analysis and discourse analysis. Findings revealed that the migrant women workers negotiated norms of respectability in a society that highly stigmatizes FTZ women workers, while the men identified conflicting constructions of masculinity existing in the FTZ. The women facing single motherhood navigated oppressive and stigmatizing social forces, and the women in prostitution constructed themselves as respectable in opposition to their societal disvalue and marginalization. In order to retain an image of sexual innocence, unmarried women are likely to refrain from demanding or demonstrating SRHR knowledge and accessing services. Furthermore, gender power imbalances leave the women vulnerable to sexual persuasion, coercion and violence. Once pregnant, social, legal, and knowledge barriers hinder or delay them in accessing abortion services. Unmarried pregnant women are thus left with the alternatives of adoption, infanticide, and suicide or become stigmatized single mothers with risks of health and social exclusion for mother and child. Extreme marginalization and limited power make women in prostitution vulnerable to unsafe sex, rape and violence. In conclusion, these women are likely to face numerous and serious SRHR hazards. The complexity of gendered social circumstances and the SRHR implications demonstrated in this thesis, add to the SRHR knowledge in Sri Lanka, and should inform politicians and policy makers about the need to improve the situation of all women in Sri Lanka.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2014. 78 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 989
Keyword
Sexual and reproductive health and rights, Free Trade Zone, gender relations, social navigation, unmarried women, migrant women workers, masculinity, single mothers, women in prostitution, qualitative interviews, Sri Lanka
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-221584 (URN)978-91-554-8924-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-05-23, Auditorium Minus, Akademigatan 3, 75310 Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
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Supervisors
Available from: 2014-04-29 Created: 2014-04-02 Last updated: 2014-06-30Bibliographically approved

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Jordal, MalinEssén, BirgittaOlsson, Pia

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