Towards a gender perspective in qualitative research on voluntary medical male circumcision in east and southern Africa

Glob Public Health. 2015;10(5-6):626-38. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2015.1014826. Epub 2015 Mar 2.


The World Health Organization endorsed voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) in 2007 as an effective method to provide partial protection against heterosexual female-to-male transmission of HIV in regions with high rates of such transmission, and where uptake of VMMC is low. Qualitative research conducted in east and southern Africa has focused on assessing acceptability, barriers to uptake of VMMC and the likelihood of VMMC increasing men's adoption of risky sexual behaviours. Less researched, however, have been the perceptions of women and sexual minorities towards VMMC, even though they are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS transmission than are heterosexual men. The purpose of this paper is to identify core areas in which a gendered perspective in qualitative research might improve the understanding and framing of VMMC in east and southern Africa. Issues explored in this analysis are risk compensation, the post-circumcision appearance of the penis, inclusion of men who have sex with men as study respondents and the antagonistic relation between VMMC and female genital cutting. If biomedical and social science researchers explore these issues in future qualitative inquiry utilising a gendered perspective, a more thorough understanding of VMMC can be achieved, which could ultimately inform policy and implementation.

Keywords: Africa; female genital mutilation; gender research; male circumcision; qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Eastern / epidemiology
  • Africa, Southern / epidemiology
  • Circumcision, Female*
  • Circumcision, Male*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / transmission
  • Social Stigma*