A Systematic Review of the Current Literature on Young Women (aged 10-24) Selling Sex in sub-Saharan Africa
MetadataShow full item record
This review focuses on Young Women Selling Sex (YWSS, 10-24 years) in sub-Saharan Africa because they are marginalised and insufficiently researched. The urgency presents itself because worldwide 19-40% of female sex workers initiate selling sex underage, meanwhile 80% of the worlds HIV positive women are in Sub-Saharan Africa during regional a youth bulge. The review analysed the experiences of YWSS, particularly how their social institutional environment affects their health, because environments influence wellbeing. The mixed methods SPIDER analysis used identified 18 articles representing 17 sub-Saharan African countries. Results depict social institutional environments that fail to acknowledge or respond to YWSS’s vulnerabilities and marginalisation leading to poor health. YWSS experience social and institutional barriers to accessing general health and legal services, usually in the form of harassment or policies preventing access. YWSS also lack services tailored specifically for youth to access independently, especially minors. This support deficiency increases risks of experiencing violence, poor mental and physical health such as mood disorders, STIs, and HIV. Due to the unforgiving environment, YWSS hide their occupation to stay safe, and seek alternative venues for support such as traditional healers for health and gangs for protection from violence which can be dangerous and exploitative. In conclusion, more research needs to be done on YWSS in sub-Saharan Africa because the understanding of their experiences is limited, especially for minors. Policies on sex work and how to treat minors who sell sex need to be revised with the intent to decriminalise sex work, and ensure that health and legal services are available, accessible, and age appropriate for all YWSS, even minors.