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An Exploratory Study of the Social Contexts, Practices and Risks of Men Who Sell Sex in Southern and Eastern Africa

The aim of the research presented in this report was to explore the social contexts, life experiences, vulnerabilities and sexual risks experienced by men who sell sex in Southern and Eastern Africa, with a focus on five countries; Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It sought to better understand differing and similar socio-cultural scenarios and personal life stories of male sex workers in these countries and to improve the representation of male sex workers in relevant regional organisations, particularly within the African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA).

The research explored:

Social contexts – including geographical and special contexts of male sex

Sexual practices – including sexual activities, roles, identities, and internal and external responses to labels for designating both men who have sex with men and male sex workers

Structural and personal risk factors – including a range of themes relating to both personal and social responses to male sex work within the context of marginalisation and human rights violations, HIV and AIDS, substance abuse, socio-political influences family, culture-and taboo, religion, stigma/prejudice, internalised phobias, legislation, and human rights abuses.

Much research on (male) sex work to-date, in Africa and elsewhere, has tended to focus on sex work as a means of survival, related to poverty and/or as a behaviour especially associated with sexual risk (and HIV transmission). Whilst in no way underestimating the importance of these issues, these emphases have tended to diminish understanding of the nuanced motivations and total ‘life-worlds’ of sex workers – especially the complex interrelationship between sex workers’ sexual subjectivities, their sex work practices and their attitudes toward HIV.



Paul Boyce and Gordon Isaacs