Violence Against Women Who Sell Sex in Eastern and Southern Africa: A Scoping Review

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2024 Jan;25(1):691-703. doi: 10.1177/15248380231160847. Epub 2023 Mar 25.

Abstract

Women who sell sex (WSS) are vulnerable to violence. We present a scoping review of the last decade of research on the prevalence and incidence of, factors associated with, and services regarding violence against WSS in Eastern and Southern African (ESA). A systematic search of various databases resulted in 20 papers being reviewed. Inclusion criteria, applied by the first two authors, were as follows: empirical papers, key research problem is violence against WSS, and conducted in ESA countries. The lifetime prevalence of violence revealed in the studies ranged from 21% to 82%. A pattern of generalized violence against WSS from paying clients, male partners, strangers, family members, friends/acquaintances, and the authorities emerged. Factors associated with violence included the context within which the sex work occurs, alcohol use, type of sex exchange interactions, and personal factors (low education, low income, marriage, youth, high client volume, time in sex work, forced sexual debut, and internalized sex work stigma). WSS seldom access services after violence. Evaluations of two programs, a woman-focused HIV intervention, and the Diagonal Interventions to Fast-Forward Reproductive Health project, showed improvements in gender-based violence services. Findings suggest that targeted programmes should be paired with improving general health services and focus on promoting collective agency among WSS.

Keywords: Eastern Africa; GBV; Southern Africa; sex workers; violence; women who sell sex.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Africa, Southern
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Work
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Violence*