Adjei, J, Saewyc E (2017). Boys are not exempt: Sexual exploitation of adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. Child Abuse & Neglect. 65 (2017): 14-23.

Research on youth sexual exploitation in Africa has largely neglected the experiences of exploited boys. To date, much of the research in sub-Saharan Africa continues to consider boys mainly as exploiters but not as exploited. Using the only publicly available population-based surveys from the National Survey of Adolescents, conducted in four sub-Saharan African countries — Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, and Uganda—we assessed factors associated with transactional sexual behaviour among never-married adolescent boys and girls. We also examined whether boys’ reported sexual exploitation was linked to similar risky sexual behaviours as has been noted among girls in sub-Saharan Africa. Results from our analyses indicated that even though adolescent girls have a somewhat higher likelihood of reporting sexual abuse and exploitation, the odds of trading sex were significantly elevated for previously traumatized boys (that is those with a history of sexual and physical abuse) but not for their female counterparts. Just like adolescent girls, transactional sexual behaviour was associated with the risk of having concurrent multiple sexual partners for boys. These findings support the reality of boys’ sexual exploitation within the African context, and further highlight the importance of including males in general and boys in particular in population-based studies on sexual health, risk, and protective factors in the sub-Saharan African region. Understanding the factors linked to sexual exploitation for both boys and girls will help in developing policies and programs that could improve the overall sexual and reproductive health outcomes among adolescents and youth in sub-Saharan Africa.

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