‘You can talk about condoms [with younger men] while older men … beat you for that’: Young women’s perceptions of gender-based violence within intergenerational relationships in South Africa

  • N Lince-Deroche
  • T Shochet
  • J Sibeko
  • L Mdlopane
  • S Pato
  • QS Makhubele
  • T Bessenaar


Background. In South Africa (SA), HIV prevalence is significantly higher in young women than in young men. Intergenerational relationships and women’s dependence on men are known HIV risks. Objectives. To qualitatively explore young women’s perceptions and experiences of dating younger and older men and their perceived risks for gender-based violence. Methods. From July to September 2011, we conducted eight focus group discussions (FGDs) and 20 in-depth interviews (IDIs) with young women aged 15 - 24 years. Women were recruited from two SA communities: one urban location in Gauteng Province and one rural location in Limpopo Province. All interviews were recorded, transcribed and translated from local languages into English. The study team then analysed the transcripts thematically, using an inductive approach, with ATLAS-ti (v6.2) software. Results. In total, 110 young women participated, 20 of them in both the FGDs and the IDIs. Young men were viewed by the participants as immature, unable to provide financially and likely to be HIV-positive, although young women sought out young men for ‘love’, mutual understanding and intimacy. In contrast, older men were perceived as easy to respect, ready for marriage and able to provide for women’s needs. Young women sought older men as providers, but acknowledged that older men were more likely to be violent and that discussing sexual and reproductive health and HIV with them was difficult. Young women expressed the belief that if a man was providing for them financially, he had ‘the right’ to use violence. Conclusions. The interviews highlighted young women’s mixed views on the ‘value’ of older v. younger partners, and the perceived and real risks of violence in intergenerational relationships. There is a need for interventions addressing power dynamics in relationships, including healthy communication. However, to address young women’s vulnerability to violence, ultimately young women and their families need access to economic opportunities that reduce dependence on transactional relationships.

S Afr Med J 2018;108(8):682-686

Author Biographies

N Lince-Deroche
Ibis Reproductive Health, Johannesburg, South Africa
T Shochet
Gynuity Health Projects, New York, NY, USA
J Sibeko
Ibis Reproductive Health, Johannesburg, South Africa
L Mdlopane
Ibis Reproductive Health, Johannesburg, South Africa
S Pato
Ibis Reproductive Health, Johannesburg, South Africa
QS Makhubele
Valoyi Traditional Authority Trust, N’wamitwa, South Africa
T Bessenaar
Ibis Reproductive Health, Johannesburg, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135