The outsize burden of HIV and AIDS among women in former British colonies goes back to colonial legal systems’ approaches to property, according to new research.
Today, sub-Saharan Africa is home to 80% of all women living with HIV, and it's the only region where HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects women.
The study found that HIV rates were twice as high in countries ruled under common law—the legal tradition of former British colonies—compared to the civil law tradition employed by the colonial powers of continental Europe. Why? Because under civil law married women had more agency to access property rights, and to refuse sex.