Cross-generational sex is defined as a sexual relationship between an adolescent girl and a partner who is older, usually by 10 or more years.
Reports in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries shows that young women aged 15-19 are involved in cross-generational sexual relationship.
Studies indicate that relationships between young women and older men are common in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa and are significantly related to unsafe sexual behaviour.
Similar studies reveal that such relationships are largely premised upon material gains, Studies from Cameron, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Swaziland and Uganda among others find that young women engage in sexual relationship with older partners for economic survival;
funds to cover education-related expenses; enhanced status and connections in social networks;
improved life opportunities the greater the economic asymmetries between partners makes it very convenient for the men to use their financial status to get them gifts, services, or money which are exchanged for sex from younger women and such women are dependent on these older man for financial support.
A girl ultimately has little power to negotiate for anything better for her life and if she does she’s exposed to a lot of dangers which includes rape and where a young woman does assert herself, she may face sexual and physical violence.
A study conducted in Swaziland among girls 14 years and older reported that 20 per cent of the girls were sexually active because of financial reasons (McLean, 1995).
Another study in rural Tanzania found that 52 per cent of female primary school students and 10 per cent of female secondary school students reported that the reason for having sex was for money or presents (Matasha, et. al., 1998).
In addition, in a study in rural Ghana, the majority of both in-school and drop-out girls admitted that the most important reason for having boyfriends was financial, and a further one-third said the reason was for the purchase of clothing and other goods.
According to a 17-year-old out of school Ugandan young woman who was 15 years younger than her partner:
‘He would pick me from home secretly and take me for film shows in town. I would always lie to my mother that I had gone to my Auntie’s place and would spend nights with him.( Moore and Biddlecom 2007).
At the end of it all, he asked me to show him that I loved him by having sex with him and I complied. I could not refuse because I was ashamed of all the things he had done for me.
Many girls are just like her because of the feeling of being indebted to the acts of “kindness” by their partners for financial assistance provided.
They also feel they should endure any inhumane behaviour that their partners put them through as they believe they don’t have a choice.
So there comes the question: Coercion or Consent?
Sexual coercion is unwanted sexual activity that happens when you are pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a nonphysical way. Coercion can make you think you owe sex to someone. It might be from someone who has power over you, like a teacher, landlord, or boss.
No person is ever required to have sex with someone else and many girls are not aware of that fact.
Many authors when writing about cross-generational sex describe a continuum of behaviours from situations in which the younger partner participates voluntarily in situations of coercion using violence and threats.
However, the complexities associated with “voluntary” behaviours are difficult to decipher.
Even with the apparent agency in their actions, young women and girls may be vulnerable to exploitation in cross-generational relationships given the lack of choices facing those living in poverty or the need to pay school fees and purchase uniforms and school books.
The Constructs of gender that encourage female passivity and male aggression and propensities to violence increase the imbalance of power in sexual partnerships between young females and older males.
There is consensus that perceptions of gender particularly of masculinity and what it means to be a “real man” impact males propensity for violence against women and girls, and too often females’ acceptance of violence from spouses, boyfriends, sexual partners, and others.