Gender inequity expressed as infidelity and jealousy by Nicaraguan men

Gender-specific jealousy and infidelity norms as sources of sexual health risk and violence among young coupled Nicaraguans.

Boyce S, Zeledon P, Tellez E, Barrington C. Am J Public Health. 2016 Feb 18:e1-e8. [Epub ahead of print]

Gender inequity negatively affects health in Central America. In 2011, we conducted 60 semistructured interviews and 12 photovoice focus groups with young coupled men and women in Leon, Nicaragua, to explore the ways in which social norms around marriage and gender affect sexual health and gender-based violence. Participants' depictions of their experiences revealed gendered norms around infidelity that provided a narrative to justify male expressions of jealousy, which included limiting partner autonomy, sexual coercion, and physical violence against women, and resulted in increased women's risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. By understanding and taking account of these different narratives and normalized beliefs in developing health- and gender-based violence interventions, such programs might be more effective in promoting gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors among young men and women in Nicaragua.

Abstract access [1]

Editor’s notes: This interesting paper explored persistent gender inequity in Nicaragua and its effects on sexual health and experiences of gender-based violence. The authors draw on an understanding that in Nicaragua gender inequity is expressed through local ideas of ‘machismo’, the masculine expectation of dominance over women. This is demonstrated through overemphasized heterosexuality, and aggression, and ‘marianismo’, the feminine expectation of submissiveness, dependence, and sexual naivety. The authors conducted two semi-structured in-depth interviews with 30 young coupled men (n = 15) and women (n = 15) and focus groups with a subsample of women (n= 6) and men (n= 5) who participated in interviews. They also asked these participants to take three photos about a discussion topic, which were discussed at a following session.

Their findings revealed two themes concerning fidelity and jealousy. Participants discussed the social acceptability of infidelity by men, and jealous behaviour by men. Women reported having little power to influence their husbands to remain faithful or to stop being jealous. The authors argue that infidelity and jealousy norms are expressions of gender inequity and impact on women’s risk of sexually transmitted infections, sexual coercion, and violence. These factors reflect constrained female sexuality and economic power. The authors conclude that while gender norms in Nicaragua are changing, progress toward gender equity is slow. Programmes to address gender inequity should frame this in terms of jealousy and infidelity, complemented with structural and systemic programmes to address gender-based social and economic inequities.

Gender [3]
Latin America [4]
Nicaragua [5]
  • [6]