Academic journal article Population

Gender and Migration: The Sexual Debut of Sub-Saharan African Migrants in France

Academic journal article Population

Gender and Migration: The Sexual Debut of Sub-Saharan African Migrants in France

Article excerpt

Research on gender relations and their recomposition in the migratory context, has developed considerably in recent years (Catarino and Morokvasic, 2005; Dahinden et al., 2007; Rigoni and Séhili, 2005). Some studies have shown that migration is not always a factor of progress and emancipation for women, since the living conditions in the country of destination can exacerbate gender inequalities (Catarino and Morokvasic, 2005; Falquet and Rabaud, 2008; Moujoud, 2008). In addition to the supposed opposition between the traditional societies of origin and the modern receiving societies, the countries of origin themselves have undergone changes in gender relations (Moujoud, 2008), while in France, gender inequalities persist, although in different forms (Maruani, 2005).

Although sexuality provides a good terrain for observing how gender relations are structured and recomposed (Bajos and Bozon, 2008), few researchers have looked at the affective and sexual trajectories of migrants. Gender relations are internalized and expressed as soon as young people become sexually active, and the fi rst sexual intercourse is revealing of differential socialization between persons born as boys or as girls (Bozon, 1993). While asymmetries in male and female situations at the time of sexual debut are observed in all societies, they are constructed differently in different contexts (Bozon, 2003; Wellings et al., 2006).

For people who have migrated, the context in which the fi rst sexual intercourse occurred may be different from the context of their socialization during childhood and adolescence. Sub-Saharan African migrants provide an excellent example, given the radical differences between the conditions of sexual debut in their own country and in France. In sub-Saharan Africa, women become sexually active earlier than men and the age gaps between partners are considerable (Bozon and Hertrich, 2001; Wellings et al., 2006). The recent changes observed there are refl ected in a postponement of marriage with respect to sexual debut, especially for women (Hertrich, 2007). In France, the conditions of sexual debut have changed considerably over recent decades, although they still reveal gender asymmetry (Bozon, 2008).

By analysing the characteristics of the sexual debuts of migrants from sub- Saharan Africa, we hope to shed new light on the impact of men and women's migratory trajectories on their fi rst sexual experiences, as well as any possible changes in sexual power relations after migration. To do this, we use a 2005 survey of 1,874 respondents who had migrated from sub-Saharan Africa and were now living in the Paris region (Île-de-France). After describing the survey and the variables, we present the characteristics of the survey population, and provide a brief description of the respondents' sexual debuts, taking account of individual and relational resources. Finally, we analyse three profi les of sexual debut according to the characteristics of the respondents' migratory trajectories. Special attention is paid to situations that are similar in both men's and women's experiences, or, on the contrary, that are different.

I. A survey of sub-Saharan migrants in Île-de-France faced with HIV/AIDS

In France, HIV/AIDS has severely affected migrant populations from sub- Saharan Africa (Cazein et al., 2008; Le Vu et al., 2009; Le Vu et al., 2010). The aim of the KABP-migrants survey (Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs and Practices) was to determine migrants' level of knowledge about HIV/AIDS, along with their attitudes to, and opinions on, HIV/AIDS and condoms, their perception of risk and of the disease, and their ways of adapting to that risk (Lydié, 2007).

The survey was carried out in Île-de-France,(1) the main residential region of people of sub-Saharan African origin (INSEE, 2005) and the leading metropolitan region affected by HIV/AIDS (Cazein et al., 2008). Respondents were interviewed face-to-face between June and July 2005 (Box 1). …

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