Concepts, Research, Policy
Edited by Sylvia Chant
Chapter 30: Sexuality, Poverty and Gender Among Gambian Youth
Alice Evans Studying sexuality in The Gambia – a poor, predominantly Muslim, country in West Africa – reveals gendered responses to poverty that other routes of inquiry might leave unearthed. Based on consultations undertaken with 44 low-income, predominantly unmarried, young people (28 male, 16 female) in urban communities in and around the capital and major metropolitan area, Banjul,1 this chapter discusses how sexual strategies are shaped, buffeted and interact with Islamic guidance and pervasive poverty. In particular it considers how social norms and income-generating strategies affect the power dynamics of sexual relationships and attitudes towards sexual pleasure. Sexual exchange As noted in The Gambia, and in several other parts of sub-Saharan Africa (see for example, Arnfred, 2006; Campbell and Gibbs, Chapter 50, this volume; Jassey, 2005; Jolly and Cornwall, Chapter 103, this volume; Jones et al., forthcoming; Madise et al., 2007; Undie and Benaya, 2006), the transfer of money and gifts between sexual partners (henceforth, ‘sexual exchange’) is socially acceptable, even if engaging in sexual relations for the sole purpose of financial benefit is not. While the latter practice is deemed to be widespread, no participant in my survey (see note 1) admitted to having such motivations. Instead, women expressly valued indirect routes to money, and if money was cited as a key benefit, it was made clear that they, unlike ‘other girls’, did not give sex in return. However, all male participants maintained that most females do ‘follow’ money: they pursue males for money; evaluate the financial status of those...
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