Women engaging in transactional sex and working in prostitution: Practices and underlying factors of the sex trade in South Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo

Abstract

Transactional sex and prostitution form a significant part of everyday urban life in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The report is based on a survey among 480 sex workers engaged in prostitution and focus groups in milieux where there is a lot of transactional sex, where material exchange is embedded in broader social relations. These are in higher education, urban poor areas, offices, trade and religious milieux. Stepping away from discourses on morality and victimhood, the report takes an angle of livelihoods and women's agency. Transactional sex in humanitarian crises is mostly associated with what is often called ‘survival sex’: sexual exchange in order to meet basic needs, often the needs of the entire family. However, the distinction between ‘needs’ (survival sex) and ‘wants’ (consumer sex) appears too simplistic, and the report proposes to replace the value-laden and imprecise term of ‘consumer sex’ by ‘strategic sex’. Engaging in transactional sex leaves women vulnerable to health, physical and emotional risks including rape, though the latter is rarely recognised by victims. To better protect and educate women, six recommendations are proposed.

Citation

Mwapu, I.; Hilhorst, D.; Mashanda, M.; Bahananga, M.; Mugenzi, R. Women engaging in transactional sex and working in prostitution: Practices and underlying factors of the sex trade in South Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London, UK (2016) 68 pp. [SLRC Report 10]

Women engaging in transactional sex and working in prostitution: Practices and underlying factors of the sex trade in South Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo

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