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Am J Public Health. 2016 Jun;106(6):1123-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303107. Epub 2016 Apr 14.

Social Support, Sexual Violence, and Transactional Sex Among Female Transnational Migrants to South Africa.

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At the time of this study, Margaret Giorgio, Sally Guttmacher, and Farzana Kapadia were with the Department of Nutrition, New York University, New York, NY. Loraine Townsend, Yanga Zembe, and Catherine Mathews are with the Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa. Mireille Cheyip is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pretoria, South Africa.



To examine the relationship between sexual violence and transactional sex and assess the impact of social support on this relationship among female transnational migrants in Cape Town, South Africa.


In 2012 we administered a behavioral risk factor survey using respondent-driven sampling to transnational migrant women aged between 16 and 39 years, born outside South Africa, living in Cape Town, and speaking English, Shona, Swahili, Lingala, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, French, or Somali.


Controlling for study covariates, travel-phase sexual violence was positively associated with engagement in transactional sex (adjusted prevalence ratio [APR] = 1.38; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.07, 1.77), and social support was shown to be a protective factor (APR = 0.84; 95% CI = 0.75, 0.95). The interaction of experienced sexual violence during migration and social support score was APR = 0.85 (95% CI = 0.66, 1.10). In the stratified analysis, we found an increased risk of transactional sex among the low social support group (APR = 1.56; 95% CI = 1.22, 2.00). This relationship was not statistically significant among the moderate or high social support group (APR = 1.04; 95% CI = 0.58, 1.87).


Programs designed to strengthen social support may reduce transactional sex among migrant women after they have settled in their receiving communities.

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