'They Have Embraced a Different Behaviour': Transactional Sex and Family Dynamics in Eastern Congo's Conflict


Maclin, Beth, Jocelyn Kelly, Justin Kabanga, and Michael VanRooyen. 2015. “'They Have Embraced a Different Behaviour’: Transactional Sex and Family Dynamics in Eastern Congo’s Conflict.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 17 (1): 119-31. 

Authors: Beth Maclin, Jocelyn Kelly, Justin Kabang, Michael VanRooyen


The decades-long conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has resulted in major changes to local economies, strained social networks and insecurity. This environment forces many to pursue unconventional and, at times, socially stigmatised avenues for income. This paper explores the ways in which individuals in eastern DRC engage in, and are affected by, the commoditisation of sex within the context of decades of violent conflict. Focus group discussions conducted with men and women in 2009–2010 highlight how the war in the region has placed individuals, particularly women, in dire economic circumstances, while also changing their roles within families. In the face of severe poverty, women and girls may choose to engage in transactional sex in order to support themselves and their families. Discussants detailed how engaging in transactional sex due to an economic imperative has nonetheless damaged women’s relationships with family members between spouses as well as parents and their children through breach of trust and failure to provide. These focus group discussions elucidate how transactional sex is both a symptom of, and a catalyst for, changes within family dynamics in eastern DRC.

Keywords: family dynamics, transactional sex, conflict, DRC

Topics: Civil Society, Class, Economies, Economic Inequality, Poverty, Gender, Women, Households, Livelihoods, Sexual Livelihoods, Sexuality, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2015

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