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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
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)
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 [en]
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: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-221584ISBN: 978-91-554-8924-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-221584DiVA: diva2:709571
Public defence
2014-05-23, Auditorium Minus, Akademigatan 3, 75310 Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-04-29 Created: 2014-04-02 Last updated: 2014-06-30Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Negotiating Respectability: Migrant Women Workers’ Perceptions on Relationships and Sexuality in Free Trade Zones in Sri Lanka
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Negotiating Respectability: Migrant Women Workers’ Perceptions on Relationships and Sexuality in Free Trade Zones in Sri Lanka
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2014 (English)In: Health Care for Women International, ISSN 0739-9332, E-ISSN 1096-4665, Vol. 35, no 6, 658-676 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Migration has implications for women's sexual and reproductive health and rights. Our purpose with this study was to explore unmarried migrant women's perceptions of relationships and sexuality in the context of Sri Lankan Free Trade Zones. Sixteen semi-structured qualitative interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. We found that the women's perceptions were influenced by gendered hegemonic notions of respectability and virginity. Complex gender relations both worked in favor of and against women's sexual and reproductive health and rights. Programs for improvement of migrant women's health should be informed by contextualized analysis of gender relations with its various dimensions and levels.

National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-211624 (URN)10.1080/07399332.2013.862799 (DOI)000337633200005 ()
Available from: 2013-11-27 Created: 2013-11-27 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. ‘Disrespectful men, disrespectable women’: Men’s perceptions on heterosexual relationships and premarital sex in a Sri Lankan Free Trade Zone - A qualitative interview study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>‘Disrespectful men, disrespectable women’: Men’s perceptions on heterosexual relationships and premarital sex in a Sri Lankan Free Trade Zone - A qualitative interview study
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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.

Keyword
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:nbn:se:uu:diva-221578 (URN)10.1186/s12914-015-0040-4 (DOI)000350253900001 ()25889367 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2014-04-02 Created: 2014-04-02 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
3. Unmarried women's ways of facing single motherhood in Sri Lanka: a qualitative interview study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Unmarried women's ways of facing single motherhood in Sri Lanka: a qualitative interview study
2013 (English)In: BMC Women's Health, ISSN 1472-6874, E-ISSN 1472-6874, Vol. 13, 5- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: In Sri Lanka, motherhood within marriage is highly valued. Sex out of wedlock is socially unacceptable and can create serious public health problems such as illegal abortions, suicide and infanticide, and single motherhood as a result of premarital sex is considered shameful. The way unmarried women facing single motherhood reflect on and make use of their agency in their social environments characterised by limited social and financial support has consequences for the health and well-being of both themselves and their children. The aim of this study was to explore and describe how unmarried women facing single motherhood in Sri Lanka handle their situation. Methods: This qualitative study comprised semi-structured interviews with 28 unmarried pregnant women or single mothers. The data were analysed by qualitative content analysis and the results related to the conceptual framework of social navigation. Results: The women facing single motherhood expressed awareness of having trespassed norms of sexuality through self-blame, victimhood and obedience, and by considering or attempting suicide. They demonstrated willingness to take responsibility for becoming pregnant before marriage by giving the child up for adoption, bringing up the child themselves, claiming a father for their child, refraining from marriage in the future, permanently leave their home environment, and taking up employment. Throughout the interviews, the women expressed fear of shame, and striving for familial and societal acceptance and financial survival. Conclusions: A social environment highly condemning of unmarried motherhood hindered these women from making strategic choices on how to handle their situation. However, to achieve acceptance and survival, the women tactically navigated norms of femininity, strong family dependence, a limited work market, and different sources of support. Limited access to resources restricted the women's sexual and reproductive health and rights, including their ability to make acceptable and healthy choices for themselves and their children.

Keyword
Single motherhood, Unmarried mothers, Qualitative interviews, Social navigation, Sri Lanka
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-200448 (URN)10.1186/1472-6874-13-5 (DOI)000317722100001 ()
Available from: 2013-05-28 Created: 2013-05-28 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
4. Constructions of Respectability and the Implications for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: Interviews with women formerly involved in prostitution in Sri Lanka
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Constructions of Respectability and the Implications for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: Interviews with women formerly involved in prostitution in Sri Lanka
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Keyword
Sri Lanka; agency; identity; respectability; interpretative repertoires; prostitution; sexual and reproductive health and rights; qualitative interviews
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Research subject
International Health
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-221583 (URN)
Available from: 2014-04-02 Created: 2014-04-02 Last updated: 2014-04-29

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