Because of temptations: children, sex and HIV/AIDS in Tanzania

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This book details the results of an ethnographic research project, conducted between 2004 and 2008 with children (from 10 to 16 years of age) in Northwest Tanzania. The aim of the research was to investigate the children’s experiences with sex, the reasons children indicate they engage in sex, and what sex and relationships mean to them. [...]

Although some children experienced unwanted forms of sex (particularly in cases of power abuse by schoolteachers) or engaged in sex because of an immediate need caused by poverty, the majority of the sexually active children engaged in sex because they felt it benefited them socially and personally. Sex was important for children; for self esteem, peer status, to feel sophisticated and a wish to be (regarded as) 'grown up'. Sometimes sex was used by boys and girls as a form of resistance against parental control or behavior. It provided girls with a means to take control over their own lives and become more independent from their parents. Since girls have few alternatives to obtain money, boyfriends provided girls with the needs that their parents cannot or would not provide. Boys mentioned a strong physical desire to make love when they reached puberty. Curiosity and wanting to test their bodies also played a significant motivational role, even for pre-pubertal boys. Love, infatuation and attraction interacted with other motivations and inhibitions. It appeared that some girls engaged in sexual relationships in the hope that the boy or (young) man would marry her and provide her with a good future. The strongest motivation for boys and girls not to engage in sex was related to the perception of the importance of education and the risk of being expelled if caught or pregnant. In general both boys and girls took active roles in courtship, in negotiating the meanings of sex, in optimizing the benefits, in reducing risks and in managing social and sexual relationships. [...]

The insights gained from the ethnographic data collected throughout this qualitative participatory research with children begin to explain why prevention programs and health interventions often have limited success. Most interventions focus almost exclusively on the dangers of sex and therefore, inadequately address the children's daily realities ignoring the experienced risks and benefits of their sexual relationships.

source: Taken from the summary of the dissertation 'Because of temptations : children, sex and HIV/AIDS in Tanzania' by M.A.J. van Reeuwijk (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences);; UvA; 2009