Friday, December 25, 2015

Histories of Forced Sex & Health Outcomes among Southern African Lesbian & Bisexual Women

Experiences of forced sex have been shown to be prevalent in Southern Africa. Negative outcomes of forced sex have been documented in general populations of women and men and include alcohol abuse, drug use, mental health problems, mental distress, sexual health problems and poor overall health. This study is the first to examine experiences of forced sex and associated health problems among lesbian and bisexual women in Southern Africa.

This study is based on data collected as part of a collaborative endeavor involving various Southern African community-based organizations. Lesbian and bisexual women in four Southern African countries participated in a cross-sectional survey, for a total study sample of 591.

Nearly one-third of participants had been forced to have sex at some time in their lives. Thirty-one percent of all women reported to have experienced forced sex at least once in their life: 14.9% reported forced sex by men only; 6.6% reported forced sex by women only; 9.6% had had forced sexual experiences with both men and women. Participants experienced forced sex by men as more serious than forced sex by women; forced sex by women was more likely to involve intimate partners compared to forced sex by men. Participants who experienced forced sex by men were more likely to report drug problems, mental distress and lower sense of belonging. Forced sex by women was associated with drinking problems and mental distress. Having experienced forced sex by both men and women was associated with lower sense of belonging to the LGBT community, drug use problem and mental distress.

The findings indicate that forced sex among Southern African women is a serious issue that needs further exploration. Clinicians should be made aware of the prevalence and possible consequences of forced sex among lesbian and bisexual women. Policies and community interventions should be designed to address this problem.

Table 2

Characteristics of forced sex experiences (by cases of forced sex (%)) 1
Forced by menForced by women
(n = 145)(n = 96)χ 2
Perpetrator was intimate partner51 (36.4)55 (59.1)10.09*
Perpetrator known to participant3.29
 Known87 (65.9)68 (77.3)
 Some known and some unknown15 (11.4)7 (8.0)
 Unknown30 (22.7)13 (14.8)
Frequency of experience1.31
 Once61 (46.2)36 (41.9)
 More than once71 (53.8)50 (58.1)
Type of sex2
 Fingers or objects in vagina55 (50.9)34 (45.3)
 Fingers or objects in anus22 (21.0)16 (23.5)
 Oral sex on participant34 (32.7)34 (46.6)
 Oral sex on forcing partner48 (44.9)42 (56.0)
 Penis in vagina108 (85.0)---
 Penis in anus34 (31.5)---
 Stimulated vagina of participant---47 (60.3)
 Stimulated vagina of forcing partner---40 (54.8)
 Not serious at all32 (22.9)37 (40.2)
 Somewhat serious16 (11.4)25 (27.2)
 Serious29 (20.7)17 (18.5)
 Very serious63 (45.0)13 (14.1)
1N’s may not sum to total due to missing data; percentages reported are percent of valid data.
2Type of sex is percent of total reporting forced sex by this gender; respondents could report more than one type of sex. Differences between proportions not tested.
*p < .001.

Full article at:

By:   Theo Sandfort, M Somjen Frazer,corresponding author Zethu Matebeni, Vasu Reddy, Ian Southey-Swartz, and Southern African Lesbian and Bisexual Women Research Team
HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, New York, NY USA
Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY USA
Institute for Humanities in Africa, HUMA, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
Human Sciences Research Council, Human and Social Development Programme, Pretoria, South Africa and University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa
Division of Gender Sexuality and Health, Columbia University, 1051 Riverside Drive, Unit 15, New York, NY 10032 USA
Theo Sandfort, Email: ude.aibmuloc@1002sgt.

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