"That pregnancy can bring noise into the family": Exploring intimate partner sexual violence during pregnancy in the context of HIV in Zimbabwe

Simukai Shamu, Naeemah Abrahams, Marleen Temmerman, Tamara Shefer, Christina Zarowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Globally, studies report a high prevalence of intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV) and an association with HIV infection. Despite the criminalisation of IPSV and deliberate sexual HIV infection in Zimbabwe, IPSV remains common. This study explored women's and health workers' perspectives and experiences of sexuality and sexual violence in pregnancy, including in relation to HIV testing. Methods: This qualitative study was part of a larger study of the dynamics of intimate partner violence and HIV in pregnancy in Zimbabwe. Key informant interviews were conducted with health workers and focus group discussions were held with 64 pregnant or nursing mothers attending antenatal and postnatal care clinics in low-income neighbourhoods of Harare, covering the major thematic areas of validated sexual violence research instruments. Thematic content analysis of audio-recorded and transcribed data was conducted. Results: While women reported some positive experiences of sex in pregnancy, most participants commonly experienced coercive sexual practices. They reported that men failed to understand, or refused to accept, pregnancy and its associated emotional changes, and often forced painful and degrading sexual acts on them, usually while the men were under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs. Men often refused or delayed HIV testing, and participants reported accounts of HIV-positive men not disclosing their status to their partners and deliberately infecting or attempting to infect them. Women's passive acceptance of sexual violence was influenced by advice they received from other females to subordinate to their partners and to not deprive men of their conjugal sexual rights. Conclusions: Cultural and societal factors, unequal gender norms and practices, women's economic vulnerability, and men's failure to understand pregnancy and emotional changes, influence men to perpetrate IPSV, leading to high risk of HIV infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere43148
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of '"That pregnancy can bring noise into the family": Exploring intimate partner sexual violence during pregnancy in the context of HIV in Zimbabwe'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this