Same-Sex Sexual Relationships in South African Female Prisons

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:15 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Caroline AGBOOLA , University of South Africa, Pretoria., South Africa

Caroline Agboola

Doctoral candidate

University of South Africa (UNISA), South Africa




Although same-sex sexual relationships in female prisons have been a topic of scholarly discourse, it has mostly been concentrated in the United States of America. Same-sex sexual relationships between females in African prisons have received little attention by researchers since studies on prison sex in Africa tend to focus on the sexual relationships between male prisoners, especially the coercive nature of such relationships in male prisons.

Drawing on the retrospective narratives of five female ex-prisoners, this study examines same-sex sexual relationships in South African female prisons. The dynamics and socialization process involved in such relationships, as well as the different forms that it takes are analysed. Specifically, research participants discussed the prevalence of same-sex sexual relationships in female prisons.

The findings of this study show that sexual relationships among females in South African prisons can be either consensual or coerced. Some of the participants believe that the motivations for female prisoners’ engagement in sexual relationships with other females in prison are the desire to satisfy material and sexual needs. However, other participants opined that the motivating factors for participating in same-sex relationships in female prisons include not just material and sexual needs, but also emotional needs, and the desire for friendship and companionship. Some of these relationships are characterised by jealousy and violence. The reactions of female prisoners to same-sex sexual relationships behind bars vary from indifference to amusement and dislike.