African Journal of AIDS Research

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Constrained relationship agency as the risk factor for intimate partner violence in different models of transactional sex

Rebecca Fielding-Miller, Kristin Dunkle


Women who engage in transactional sex are more likely to experience intimate partner violence (IPV) and are at higher risk of HIV. However, women engage in transactional sex for a variety of reasons and the precise mechanism linking transactional sex and IPV is not fully understood. We conducted a behavioural survey with a cross-sectional sample of 401 women attending 1 rural and 1 urban public antenatal clinic in Swaziland between February and June 2014. We used structural equation modelling to identify and measure constrained relationship agency (CRA) as a latent variable, and then tested the hypothesis that CRA plays a significant role in the pathway between IPV and transactional sex. After controlling for CRA, receiving more material goods from a sexual partner was not associated with higher levels of physical or sexual IPV and was protective against emotional IPV. CRA was the single largest predictor of IPV, and more education was associated with decreased levels of constrained relationship agency. Policies and interventions that target transactional sex as a driver of IPV and HIV may be more successful if they instead target the broader social landscape that constrains women’s agency and drives the harmful aspects of transactional sex.

Keywords: gender-based violence, intimate partner violence, structural equation model, Swaziland, transactional sex, women’s empowerment
AJOL African Journals Online