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Sex in Geneva, sex in Lilongwe, and sex in Balaka


  • Tawfik, Linda
  • Watkins, Susan Cotts


This paper compares three interpretations of women and the transmission of HIV in rural Malawi. One is disseminated world-wide by institutions with a global reach such as the World Health Organization in Geneva and United States Agency for International Development (USAID); the second is provided by urban Malawians situated in the capital of Lilongwe, the seat of government and the site of the many international and national non-governmental agencies; the third is articulated by rural women and men in Balaka District, Malawi. We focus on women's motivations for extramarital sex, using qualitative interview data. We find that whereas in Geneva and Lilongwe women from rural Malawi are said to engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage because they need money for survival, in Balaka they are said to be motivated not only by money for survival but also for attractive consumer goods as well as by passion and by revenge for a husband's infidelity. We also find that data collection procedures influence explanations for women's affairs, as does the respondent's gender. An implication of this study is that AIDS-prevention policies based on the view from Geneva and Lilongwe need modification for Balaka, and by implication for rural Africa more generally.

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  • Tawfik, Linda & Watkins, Susan Cotts, 2007. "Sex in Geneva, sex in Lilongwe, and sex in Balaka," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(5), pages 1090-1101, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:64:y:2007:i:5:p:1090-1101

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Seidel, Gill, 1993. "The competing discourses of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa: Discourses of rights and empowerment vs discourses of control and exclusion," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 175-194, February.
    2. Smith, Kirsten P. & Watkins, Susan Cotts, 2005. "Perceptions of risk and strategies for prevention: responses to HIV/AIDS in rural Malawi," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 649-660, February.
    3. Kirsten P. Smith & Susan Cotts Watkins, 2005. "Perceptions of Risk and Strategies for Prevention: Responses to HIV/AIDS in Rural Malawi," PGDA Working Papers 0305, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
    4. Nancy Luke & Susan Cotts Watkins, 2002. "Reactions of Developing-Country Elites to International Population Policy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(4), pages 707-733.
    5. Kesby, Mike, 2000. "Participatory diagramming as a means to improve communication about sex in rural Zimbabwe: a pilot study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(12), pages 1723-1741, June.
    6. FFF1Georges NNN1Reniers, 2003. "Divorce and Remarriage in Rural Malawi," Demographic Research Special Collections, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 1(6), pages 175-206, September.
    7. Heise, Lori L. & Elias, Christopher, 1995. "Transforming AIDS prevention to meet women's needs: A focus on developing countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 931-943, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ning Hsieh, 2013. "Perceived risk of HIV infection and mental health in rural Malawi," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 28(13), pages 373-408, February.
    2. Durevall, Dick & Lindskog, Annika, 2012. "Economic Inequality and HIV in Malawi," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 1435-1451.
    3. Telalagic, S., 2012. "Domestic Production as a Source of Marital Power: Theory and Evidence from Malawi," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1243, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    4. Stoebenau, Kirsten & Heise, Lori & Wamoyi, Joyce & Bobrova, Natalia, 2016. "Revisiting the understanding of “transactional sex” in sub-Saharan Africa: A review and synthesis of the literature," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 186-197.
    5. Julia Cordero Coma, 2013. "When the group encourages extramarital sex," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 28(30), pages 849-880, April.
    6. Fielding-Miller, Rebecca & Dunkle, Kristin L. & Cooper, Hannah L.F. & Windle, Michael & Hadley, Craig, 2016. "Cultural consensus modeling to measure transactional sex in Swaziland: Scale building and validation," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 25-33.
    7. Bove, Riley & Valeggia, Claudia, 2009. "Polygyny and women's health in sub-Saharan Africa," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 21-29, January.
    8. Leigh Johnson & Rob Dorrington & Debbie Bradshaw & Victoria Pillay-Van Wyk & Thomas Rehle, 2009. "Sexual behaviour patterns in South Africa and their association with the spread of HIV: insights from a mathematical model," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 21(11), pages 289-340, September.
    9. Nicole Angotti & Margaret Frye & Amy Kaler & Michelle Poulin & Susan Cotts Watkins & Sara Yeatman, 2014. "Popular Moralities and Institutional Rationalities in Malawi's Struggle Against AIDS," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 40(3), pages 447-473, September.


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