Social determinants of youth sexuality: a case study of in-school youth in Nairobi
Young people below the age of 24 years represent the largest component (65%) of Kenya's population. This age segment is crucial in development planning, as they are at the most productive stage of their lives. The future development and prosperity of the country lies in their hands. Unfortunately, youth is the peak of sexual risks as it involves the management of sexuality amongst unmarried individuals. This makes them the most vulnerable segment of the population to sexual risks. The focus of this study was to examme the social determinants of youth pre-marital sexual experiences vis-a-vis sexual risks and safer sex practices. The aim of this was to find out if high levels of risk-perception lead to the adoption of safer sex practices. To achieve this, the study employed both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Quantitative methods enabled us to get various reproductive health indicators whereas; the qualitative methods enabled adequate capture of the perceptions and feelings of the youth as well as their pre-marital sexual experiences. The study population consisted of in-school youths, both male and female, aged 10 - 24 years in primary and secondary schools in Starehe Constituency and the University of Nairobi located in Nairobi province. A structured pre-coded questionnaire, constituting mainly of closed-ended questions was the main research instrument used to collect primary data. The study found that there is high level of awareness (98%) of sexual risks and high self-risk perceptions (88%) associated with unprotected sexual intercourse. There is also high awareness (78%) of the ABCs (Abstinence, Being Faithful, and Condom use) of safer sex. Regardless of these, forty seven percent of the respondents were sexually active. Out of this, 53% engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse, 43% used a condom and 4% used an emergency contraception. The study found that determinants of youth pre-marital sexual experiences include, curiosity (42%), sexual coercion (30%) and peer pressure (18%). Other determinants are, age, the onset of sexual activity increases with age, the older the respondent, the greater the probability of engaging in sex. Sex, male start engaging in sex at an earlier age and have more sexual partners than females. The study also found that religion and socio-economic status were not significant determiner of sexual behaviour amongst youth. Lastly, in terms of family structure and relationships, youth in independent living quarters have a higher probability to engage in sex as compared to those who live with both parents/guardians and relatives .. The more connected an individual feels to their parents, the less likely they are to participate in early sexual activity. Concerning information sources, parent-child communication especially communication between fathers and their children guarantees the least probability of engaging in pre-marital sex. Unfortunately Peers are the key source of information on sexuality and not parents. As a result youths are pressurised to engage in pre-marital sex by conforming to the societal normative belief by doing what 'everyone else is doing'. The mass media is increasingly becoming a major part of the daily lives of the youth. It mitigates youth sexuality both negatively and positively. It can bring youth sexual topics out in the open enabling them to be discussed openly, thus help inculcate responsible behaviour to the youth through entertainment-education. The implication of these findings is that research needs to go beyond self-risk perceptions as determinants of adoption of safer sex practices. Researchers need to look at the larger societal, structural and environmental factors that impact on youth sexuality. As a result, youths need to be educated on sexual and reproductive health matters as well as psychosocial life skills from as an early age as 5 years. This will enable them deal effectively with the societal expectations on premarital sex and hence reduce the high prevalence of sexual risks.
CitationMasters of Arts Degree In Development studies
University of NairobiInstitute for Development Studies
A Research Project Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Development Studies