Cross-generational sexual relationship in Addis Ababa: A qualitative study
Background: Cross-generational sexual practices are considered unsafe sexual behaviors. The risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections including HIV is believed to be high among those involved in cross-generational sexual relationship. However, studies addressing why and how people are engaged in such practices are limited. This study attempted to fill this gap. This study therefore explored cross generational sexual relationships and their perceived effects in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Methods: Qualitative research with a phenomenological study design was carried out in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2014. Individuals who had personal experience of cross-generational sexual relationship (CGSR), and/or who were familiar with the practice were selected using snow balling technique. Six focus group discussions, three key informants and five in-depth interviews and non-participatory observations were conducted to obtain data for the study. All the FGDs and in-depth interviews were audio-recorded. The recorded data were transcribed and analyzed using a thematic approach in which motives, customs, perceived risks were separately identified for young girls and older men.
Results: The motives for engaging in CGSR were found to be not the same for young girls and older men. The motives for young girls to get engaged in CGSR were often related with acquiring money and material while older men reported sexual pleasure as their driving force. The findings also revealed that cross-generational sexual relationship between a young girl and an older man did not last long. The economic background of young girls involved in such a practice was found to be mixed. This means that there were girls from poor economic background while also there were girls in the group whose economic background was fairly better off. Similarly, the educational background of the girls involved in CGSR was not found to be uniform. This means that many had either high school or college level educational background. Some in the group claimed to have completed university education. There were also illiterate young girls in the group that participated in the study. In connection with marriage, regardless of their economic background, both married and unmarried older men had this relationship. The young girls may have control on whether or not to engage themselves in CGSR. It should however be stated they either have no or little control on what would happen within relationships including the use of condom during sex. Similarly, asking for proof of HIV test before sex was also found to be a point beyond the relationship.
Conclusion: Cross generational sexual relationships in Addis Ababa are likely to be unsafe due to the absence of condom use, absence of proof of HIV test before sex, and presence of multiple sexual partners. Further studies are necessary to measure the extent and effects of CGSRs. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2017;31(4):228-235]
Keywords: cross-generational sex, HIV, risky sexual behavior, transactional sex