Examining Gender Relations among HIV Positive South Asian Immigrant Women in the Greater Toronto Area through an Anti-Oppressive Lens


  • Roula Kteily-Hawa Queen's University


Gender relations, social theory of gender, HIV-positive South Asian immigrant women, HIV risk, anti-oppressive lens, hegemonic masculinity, qualitative inquiry


This paper focuses on South Asian immigrant women living with HIV in Toronto. Our community-based research affirmed the benefits of augmenting the social theory of gender with a focus on the local. An anti-oppressive and intersectional lens explored how multiple relations of domination and subordination affect women living with HIV. A general inductive approach identified four themes pursuant to women’s perceptions of gender relations and how they affect their risk of HIV: power, emotional attachment, gendered division of labour, and social norms. Richer understandings of how power operates between genders paves the way for theory refinement and innovative, refocused research.

Cet article est basé sur une recherche de doctorat achevée en 2011. L’objectif principal de cette étude est d’explorer comment le pouvoir masculin dans les communautés sud-asiatiques, légitimé par la masculinité hégémonique, contribue au risque d’infection par le VIH chez les femmes sud-asiatiques. Les histoires racontées par ces femmes révèlent des relations de pouvoir durant leur enfance et leur vie adulte, caractérisées par un déséquilibre de pouvoir et une domination du mâle. La compréhension des réalités des immigrantes sud-asiatiques selon une optique anti-oppressive est offerte comme un moyen de réduire le sentiment d’impuissance acquise, sans essentialiser la culture.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Roula Kteily-Hawa, Queen's University

A secondary school teacher by training, Roula Hawa was a lead writer in the recently released Revised Ontario Curriculum, Social Sciences and Humanities. She completed her Ph.D. in Leadership, Higher and Adult Education at OISE, University of Toronto in 2013. She has been involved in teaching and curriculum writing for more than 10 years in the Family Supports program at Ryerson University and more recently in the Continuing Teacher Education program at Queen's University. Her research projects include examining the role of story-telling as a culturally relevant intervention to promote sexual health and exploring challenges related to food culture in schools. 


Abraham, Margaret, Roopa Chakkappan, and Sung Won Park. 2005. South Asian Immigrant Women’s HIV/AIDS Related Issues: An Exploratory Study of New York City. New York, NY: Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS.

Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP). 1999. Discrimination and HIV/AIDS in South Asian Communities: Legal, Ethical, and Human Rights Challenges: An Ethnocultural Perspective. Toronto, ON: Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, Health Canada.

Armstrong, Jan. 2003. “Power and Prejudice: Some Definitions for Discussion and Analysis.” https://www.unm.edu/~jka/courses/archive/power.html.

Barriball, K. Louise, and Alison While. 1994. “Collecting Data Using a Semi-Structured Interview: A Discussion Paper.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 19 (2): 328-335.

Beneria, Lourdes, and Martha Roldan. 1987. The Crossroads of Class and Gender. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Cocks, Joan. 1989. The Oppositional Imagination. London, UK: Routledge.

Connell, R. W. 1987. Gender and Power: Society, The Person, and Sexual Politics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

___. 1995. Masculinities. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

___. 2002. Gender. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

___. 2005. Masculinities. Second Edition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

___. 2012. “Gender, Health and Theory: Conceptualizing the Issue, in Local and World Perspective.” Social Science and Medicine 74 (11): 1675-1683.

Connell, R. W., and James W. Messerschmidt. 2005. “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept.” Gender & Society 19 (6): 829–859.

Connell, Raewyn, and Rebecca Pearse. eds. 2009. Gender in World Perspectives. Second Edition. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.

Cote, Andre, Michelle Kerisit, and Marie-Louise Cote. 2001. Sponsorship for Better or for Worse: The Impact of Sponsorship on the Equality Rights of Immigrant Women. Ottawa, ON: Status of Women Canada.

Council of Agencies Servicing South Asians. 2000. Constructing a Community in Diversity: The South Asian experience [Executive summary]. Toronto, ON.

Creswell, John W. 2003. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Method. Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage.

DeFrancisco, Victoria P., and Catherine H. Palczewski. 2014. Gender in Communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Dwyer, Claire. 2000. “Negotiating Diasporic Identities: Young British South Asian Muslim Women.” Women’s Studies International Forum 23 (4): 475–486.

Gagnon, Anita, Lisa Merry, Jacqueline Bocking, Ellen Rosenberg, and Jacqueline Oxman Martinez. 2010. “South Asian Migrant Women and HIV/STIs: Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices and the Role of Sexual Power.” Health and Place 16 (1): 10-15.

Hamberg, Katarina, and Eva Johansson. 1999. “Practitioner, Researcher, and Gender Conflict.” Qualitative Health Research 9 (4): 455–467.

Hankivsky, Olena. 2012. “Women’s Health, Men’s Health, and Gender and Health: Implications of Intersectionality.” Social Science and Medicine 74 (11): 1712-1720.

Hawa, Roula, and Vijaya Chikermane. 2017. “Clearing Space for Multiple Voices: HIV Vulnerability Among South Asian Immigrant Women in Toronto.” Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture, and Social Justice 38 (1): 247-257.

Husaini, Z. 2001. Cultural Dilemma and A Plea for Justice: Voices of Canadian Ethnic Women. Edmonton, AB: Intercultural Action Committee for the Advancement of Women.

Jiwani, Yasmin. 2011. “Trapped in the Carceral Net: Race, Gender, and the ‘War on Terror.’” Global Media Journal: Canadian Edition 4 (2): 13–31.

Jiwani, Yasmin, Nancy Janovicek, and Angela Cameron. 2001. Erased Realities: The Violence of Racism in the Lives of Immigrant and Refugee Girls of Colour. Vancouver, BC: Feminist Research Education Development and Action Centre.

Kirby, Sandra, and Kate McKema. 1989. “Planning for Data Gathering.” In Experience Research Social Change: Methods from the Margins, by Sandra Kirby and Kate McKenna, 95-110. Toronto, ON: Garamond Press.

Leonard, Lynn, Eleanor Medd, Susan McWilliam, Mona J. Rowe, Noulmook Sutdhibhasilp, and Danielle Layman-Pleet. 2007. “Considering ‘Women’ as a Discrete Group May Limit HIV Prevention Programming.” Paper presented at the 16th Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research, Toronto, ON, April 26-29.

Magar, Veronica. 2003. “Empowerment Approaches to Gender-based Violence: Women’s Courts in Delhi Slums.” Women’s Studies International Forum 26 (6): 509–523.

Marshall, Catherine, and Gretchen B. Rossman. 1995. Designing Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Merali, Noorfarah. 2009. “Experiences of South Asian Women Brides Entering Canada After Recent Changes to Family Sponsorship Policies.” Violence Against Women 15 (3): 321–339.

Morgan, David L. 2008. “Snowball Sampling.” In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods, edited by Lisa Given, 815–816. Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage.

Patton, Michael Q. 2002. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods. Third Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Raj, Anita, and Danielle Tuller. 2003. “HIV-Related Knowledge, Risk Perceptions, and Behavior Among a Community-based Sample of South Asian Women in Greater Boston.” Unpublished Report. New York, NY: Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS.

Razack, Sherene. 2005. “Geopolitics, Culture Clash, and Gender after September 11.” Social Justice 32 (4): 11–31.

Rosenfield, Sarah. 2012. “Triple Jeopardy? Mental Health at the Intersection of Gender, Race, and Class.” Social Science and Medicine 74 (11): 1791-1801.

Sharman, Zena, and Joy Johnson. 2012. “Towards the Inclusion of Gender and Sex in Health Research and Funding: An Institutional Perspective.” Social Science and Medicine 74 (11): 1812-1816.

Singer, Sharon Manson, Dennis G. Willms, Alix Adrien, James Baxter, Claudia Brabazon, Viviane Leaune, Gaston Godin, Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale, and Paul Cappon. 1996. “Many Voices: Sociocultural Results of the Ethnocultural Communities Facing AIDS Study in Canada” Canadian Journal of Public Health 87: S26–32, S28–35.

Statistics Canada. 2006. Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada Highlight Tables, 2006 Census: Population by Visible Minority Groups: Census Subdivisions (CSDs): Municipalities: Only Census Subdivisions (CSDs) with 5,000-plus Population. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada. http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/dp-pd/hlt/97-562/index.cfm?Lang=E

Strauss, Anselm L. 1987. Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Talbani, Aziz, and Parveen Hasanali. 2000. “Adolescent Females between Tradition and Modernity: Gender Role Socialization in South Asian Immigrant Culture.” Journal of Adolescence 23 (5): 615–627.

Thomas, David R. 2006. “A General Inductive Approach for Analyzing Qualitative Evaluation Data.” American Journal of Evaluation 27 (2): 237-246.

Vlassoff, Carol, and Firdaus Ali. 2011. “HIV Related Stigma among South Asians in Toronto.” Ethnicity and Health 16 (1): 25–42.

Wharton, Amy S. 2005. The Sociology of Gender. Maldon, MA: Blackwell.

Empowering Women, by Designer Julissa Lopez, Dominican Republic