Nonconsensual sex takes many forms, including forced sex, transactional sex, cross-generational sex, unwanted touch, and molestation. Perpetrators can be strangers, peers, intimate partners, family members, and authority figures such as teachers. In any form, nonconsensual sex has negative consequences among its victims.
In sub-Saharan Africa, transactional sex performed in exchange for material gifts and cross-generational sex between a woman under age 20 and a man at least 10 years older are increasingly prevalent. Concern about HIV has prompted older men to seek younger sexual partners under the assumption that they are less likely to be infected. Young women are often willing to participate in these partnerships for emotional reasons; perceived educational, work, or marriage opportunities; monetary and material gifts; or basic survival. Consenting young women may fail to realize their vulnerability to abuse, exploitation, and reproductive health risks. The power imbalance that exists between cross-generational partners, and the transactional nature of these relationships, often result in inadequate communication about risk and decreased condom use. This and the higher likelihood that an older male partner is HIV positive increase the risk of HIV infection among these young women. In sub-Saharan Africa, young women ages 15–24 are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than young men of the same age. Additional risks include anxiety, depression, social isolation, academic trouble, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancy, abortion, and increased propensity for risky behavior in the future.
Young age, financial need, drug and alcohol consumption, previous abuse, and involvement with multiple partners are personal risk factors for sexual coercion of youth. Environmental and structural risk factors include poverty, patriarchy, gender inequity, early marriage, weak educational and health systems, and ineffective policies and laws. More research is needed on how to effectively address nonconsensual sex among young people. Experts stress the importance of policy support for altering social norms of gender inequity and power imbalance and recommend community-based, youth-specific interventions that use education, livelihood programs, and social marketing campaigns to empower young women.