Abstract: Providing Services to Youth Involved in Transactional Sex in Uganda: Professional Ethics in the Context of LGBTQ+ and Gender Oppression (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

59P Providing Services to Youth Involved in Transactional Sex in Uganda: Professional Ethics in the Context of LGBTQ+ and Gender Oppression

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Hugo Kamya, PhD, Professor, Simmons University - School of Social Work, Boston, MA
Background and Purpose: This study conducted explores the perceptions of service providers working with marginalized youth involved in transactional sex in Uganda. The study further examines the challenges social service providers encounter as they navigate structural systems of oppression facing youth involved in transactional sex as well as providers’ own internalized biases. This study was part of a larger study that explores professional perspectives and insights on the demographics, causes and consequences of youth transactional sex in Uganda, as well as models of response.

Methods: Based on qualitative, in-depth interviews with 23 service providers in Kampala, Uganda, the study explores providers’ perception of service provision with youth engaged in transactional sex, particularly adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other youth with marginalized genders and sexualities (LGBTQ+). The study analyzed providers’ responses depicting systems of oppression for youth engaging in transactional sex. Data analysis was completed through iterative coding, using Nvivo software. The researchers read all transcripts to develop a preliminary thematic coding framework, which was consolidated through collective review.

Results: The study found that providers working with AGYW and LGBTQ+ youth navigate fraught environments of oppression. Some providers used blaming frames depicting youth aberrant sexual behaviors while other providers used coded services to reach out to the youth despite regulatory restrictions, traditional culture, and contemporary effects of colonialism. Providers focused on economic power imbalances and gender role socialization as important structural factors shaping AGYW’s engagement in TS, while some also reflected blaming frames. While some providers evidenced sensitivity to LGBTQ+ youths’ experiences of oppression, the study found that there are ways in which providers’ framing may contribute to the marginalization of LGBTQ+.

Conclusion and Implications: Providers must continually seek ways to balance internalized biases and prejudices in the broad contexts of structural and socio-cultural oppression. The study found that commitment to service provision reveals a delicate balance as providers navigate the broader contexts of oppression, and in doing so, challenge their own internalized biases. It is important that professional practice pay attention to ethics, historical contexts of colonialism, national policies and structured oppression. The provision of services for marginalized youth involved in transactional sex must be understood within the context and history of broader societal and structural factors that affect adolescent girls and young women and LGBTQ+ youth.