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Exploring perceived coercive aspects of transactional sex in Central Uganda

Kirsten Stoebenau examines the Central Uganda Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW)'s participation in transactional sex

Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in Uganda are at risk of early sexual debut, unwanted pregnancy, violence, and disproportionally high HIV infection rates, driven in part by transactional sex. Yet there is a limited exploration in the literature of AGYW’s views of the extent to which they feel coerced into entering transactional sex relationships or the role that any coercion has on their sexual health.

Faculty Associate Kirsten Stoebenau, an assistant professor from the University of Maryland School of Public Health specializing in women’s sexual and reproductive health in sub-Saharan Africa, along with her co-authors, in this paper examines the extent to which Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW)'s participation in transactional sex is perceived to be coerced in Central Uganda.

The study was conducted in two sites in Central Uganda. The urban site, in Kampala District, is a low-income community located approximately 5 km from Kampala’s central business district. Data were collected through individual in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs) with a broad range of participants to capture a variety of perspectives on transactional sex from adolescent girls and boys and adult women and men.

Results indicate that many AGYW who participate in transactional sex relationships may not describe their involvement to have been coerced, with many highlighting the motivations and benefits of entering such relationships. Some AGYW also described the coercive role that receiving resources from men played in their decision to have sex.

Structural interventions, for example improving young women’s access to financial resources, would usefully provide young women with a means to access their needs without having to rely on relationships with men. For meaningful impact, interventions would also need to engage with the strong gender expectations around men’s role in provision and encourage a process of critical reflection amongst AGYW on issues including their right to pleasurable consensual sex, partner choice, the risks associated with keeping up with the consumption of peers and their current and future aspirations.


Nambusi Kyegombe, Rebecca Meiksin, Joyce Wamoyi, Lori Heise, Kirsten Stoebenau & Ana Maria Buller (2020) Sexual health of adolescent girls and young women in Central Uganda: exploring perceived coercive aspects of transactional sex, Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 28:1, 1700770, DOI: 10.1080/26410397.2019.1700770

See the complete research article