Hitherto, studies on vaginal practices in Southern Africa, have shown that women frequently are involved in procedures aiming to the so called “dry sex”. This practice has raised important debates around the susceptibility of acquiring ITS and HIV/AIDS. In Mozambique, the ultimate HIV/AIDS prevalence data shows a bleak picture of about 16.5% among sexually active population – with a significantly higher number among women.
Coincidently in some contexts of the country sexually active women are engaged in several non therapeutic vaginal practices. Despite research on sexuality and HIV/AIDS have quite often been conducted, an in-depth analysis on sexual practices is extremely limited. The understanding and definition of vaginal practices, its motivations and consequences are still evolving and pose various critical questions of self-perceived notions of sexual pleasure, eroticism and well being. This paper is based on ethnographic data about vaginal practices gathered during 2005 in four communities of Tete province – a central region of Mozambique.
The research aimed to identify the practices and their prevalence to inform policies for a suitable development of ITS and HIV/AIDS prevention. Methods: The theoretical approach was informed by symbolic perspective and sexual constructivism and the field-work was based on focus-group discussion and in-depth interviews. Vaginal practices, that have multiple aims and meanings, are perceived by women according to various cultural constructions of sexuality. The vaginal products aiming to enhance sexual pleasure are incompatible with condom use, which is perceived in a negative light. The vaginal conditions expressed through one element of the dichotomies open/closed, dry/wet and hot/cold are equally necessary to sexual pleasure and procreation. In this perspective, vaginal manipulation is seldom perceived as a cause of sexual disorders particularly related to ITS and HIV/AIDS.
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