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Drake University

Publication Date

Spring 2014

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


Transactional sexual relationships are argued to be a potent driver of the HIV epidemic among young women in South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal bears the heaviest burden of the epidemic. The practice has roots in South Africa’s social and political history of oppression, as well as the tides of post-apartheid globalization. Through a combination of individual interviews and focus groups discussions (FGDs), this study explores 21 young women’s perceptions and narratives of transactional sex from an ‘othered’ perspective. Individual interviews were conducted in the township community of Cato Manor; FGDs were conducted with the assistance of OneVoice South Africa (OVSA) in KwaMashu township. Motivations and dynamics of transactional sexual relationships were found to be incredibly nuanced depending on context, including socioeconomic status and geographical location. Women’s agency and active participation in seeking benefits from transactional sex was highlighted as a key concept in findings. Finally, the ‘othering’ of transactional sex revealed perceptions of the practice in a moralistic lens, closely linked to Zulu culture and dominant discourses on female sexuality and gender.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification


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