Employment, Transactional Sex, and Bargaining within Premarital Relationships in Urban Kenya

Nancy Luke, Brown University
Rachel E. Goldberg, Brown University
Blessing Mberu, African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC)

This study applies the household bargaining model to sexual decision-making in premarital relationships in a context of high HIV/AIDS prevalence. Using life history calendar data collected from women ages 18-24 in Kisumu, Kenya, the study explores linkages between two important sources of women’s economic resources—employment and material transfers from male partners—and sexual behavior within premarital relationships (N=503 relationships). Consistent with a bargaining perspective, results show that employment and income increase the likelihood of safe sexual behavior, including delaying sex and using condoms consistently. Material transfers display the opposite effect, supporting the view the resources obtained from within the relationship decrease women’s negotiating power. Finally, bargaining dynamics appear to be similar at the beginning and later stages of relationships.

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Presented in Session 76: Gender, Sexuality and Power