Transactional sex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo helps in understanding women’s choices.

Clip_6 (2)Transactional sex is part of everyday urban life in South Kivu – taking place in situations as varied as marketplaces, offices and churches. A new study, based on a survey of 480 sex workers and focus group discussions, examines women’s motivations and agency.

It finds an enormous and complex spectrum of sexual activity captured in the term “transactional sex” – with its upsurge related to conflict. While many women engage in transactional sex out of choice and in strategic ways to secure their future or expand their options in life, the majority of women are just coping with extreme poverty. Making transactional sex less exploitative “will entail a long, slow process of tackling deeply-embedded gender norms and social relations”, the report says.

Love thy neighbour

Africa is often portrayed as an intolerant continent – one of “ancient, atavistic hatreds”. But an Afrobarometer survey in 33 countries shows instead high degrees of acceptance of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, immigrants, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Large majorities of African citizens exhibit high tolerance (gauged by the question “would you like to have them as a neighbour?”) for people from different ethnic groups (91%), people of different religions (87%), immigrants (81%), and people living with HIV/AIDS (68%). The survey found tolerance levels are particularly high in regions and countries that are ethnically and religiously diverse, “suggesting that experience is an important factor in inculcating an attitude of tolerance”.

Where the love tends to curdle is over homosexuality. Across the 33 countries, an average of 78% of respondents said they would “somewhat dislike” or “strongly dislike” having a homosexual neighbour. But some countries buck that trend. Majorities in four countries (Cape Verde, South Africa, Mozambique, and Namibia), and more than four in 10 citizens in three other countries, would like or not mind having gay neighbours. “This suggests attitudes and values are not immutable; instead, they can be learned and unlearned,” says Afrobarometer.