Poverty and Sexuality in Africa: An Empirical Evaluation
Yanyi K. Djamba, Southeastern Louisiana University
Most HIV infections in Africa occur through heterosexual contacts and the majority of AIDS patients are young women. This African AIDS pattern led some scholars to posit a relationship between female poverty and sexual permissiveness. The central argument has been that, because of their relative economic disadvantage, African women are compelled to exchange sexual favors for money and other commodities. However, this claim has not yet been empirically tested, due in part to the lack of appropriate data. This study examines the relationship between poverty and sexual activity using data collected in December 2003-January 2004 on a random sample of 421 unmarried women aged 14-24 years in the African city of Kinshasa. The results do not support the thesis that poverty causes women to engage in sexual activity. Although many respondents acknowledged receiving money and other gifts from their male partners, their main reason for sexual intercourse was not economic.