‘You can talk about condoms [with younger men] while older men … beat you for that’: Young women’s perceptions of gender-based violence within intergenerational relationships in South Africa

N Lince-Deroche, T Shochet, J Sibeko, L Mdlopane, S Pato, Q S Makhubele, T Bessenaar


Background. In South Africa (SA), HIV prevalence is significantly higher in young women than in young men. Intergenerational relationships and women’s dependence on men are known HIV risks.

Objectives. To qualitatively explore young women’s perceptions and experiences of dating younger and older men and their perceived risks for gender-based violence.

Methods. From July to September 2011, we conducted eight focus group discussions (FGDs) and 20 in-depth interviews (IDIs) with young women aged 15 - 24 years. Women were recruited from two SA communities: one urban location in Gauteng Province and one rural location in Limpopo Province. All interviews were recorded, transcribed and translated from local languages into English. The study team then analysed the transcripts thematically, using an inductive approach, with ATLAS-ti (v6.2) software.

Results. In total, 110 young women participated, 20 of them in both the FGDs and the IDIs. Young men were viewed by the participants as immature, unable to provide financially and likely to be HIV-positive, although young women sought out young men for ‘love’, mutual understanding and intimacy. In contrast, older men were perceived as easy to respect, ready for marriage and able to provide for women’s needs. Young women sought older men as providers, but acknowledged that older men were more likely to be violent and that discussing sexual and reproductive health and HIV with them was difficult. Young women expressed the belief that if a man was providing for them financially, he had ‘the right’ to use violence.

Conclusions. The interviews highlighted young women’s mixed views on the ‘value’ of older v. younger partners, and the perceived and real risks of violence in intergenerational relationships. There is a need for interventions addressing power dynamics in relationships, including healthy communication. However, to address young women’s vulnerability to violence, ultimately young women and their families need access to economic opportunities that reduce dependence on transactional relationships.


Authors' affiliations

N Lince-Deroche, Ibis Reproductive Health, Johannesburg, South Africa

T Shochet, Gynuity Health Projects, New York, NY, USA

J Sibeko, Ibis Reproductive Health, Johannesburg, South Africa

L Mdlopane, Ibis Reproductive Health, Johannesburg, South Africa

S Pato, Ibis Reproductive Health, Johannesburg, South Africa

Q S Makhubele, Valoyi Traditional Authority Trust, N’wamitwa, South Africa

T Bessenaar, Ibis Reproductive Health, Johannesburg, South Africa

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HIV; Sexual and reproductive health; Violence; Contraception

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2018;108(8):682-686. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2018.v108i8.12794

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-07-25
Date published: 2018-07-25

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