The role adolescent boys play in premarital sexual activities, gender power relations, and the reproductive health risks they are exposed to, has received little attention in research. This qualitative study has aimed to explore Zambian male adolescents' perceptions and expectations about premarital sexual relationships. Seven focus group discussions were conducted between November 2000 and May 2001, in George and Chimwemwe compounds, with 53 boys aged 15 to 19. The findings reveal that adolescent premarital sexual relationships are common and considered by many boys as a prerequisite to achieving an adult male's autonomy and status. The boys viewed themselves as the privileged gender, with greater freedom than girls, and were the major decision-makers on sexual matters in relationships. The results indicate that traditional values and stereotypical gender roles continue to influence Zambian boys' male identity. However, a sense of ambiguity among the boys on issues of gender imbalance in premarital relationships indicates a potential and preparedness to break with traditional trends — a true challenge for public health priorities and interventions.
Keywords: Africa, HIV/AIDS, gender, male identity, risk behaviours, sexual behaviour, sexuality
African Journal of AIDS Research 2006, 5(3): 257–264