Risky sexual behaviour and constructions of masculinities among South African teenage Indian boys in the context of HIV/AIDS.
To guide effective responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has fatally plagued South Africa, greater research targeting adolescents needs to be undertaken. Whilst a majority of HIV/AIDS studies focus on the black South African population, less work has been done focusing on the rest of the population of South Africa. HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. It affects and impacts on the lives of all South Africans. This study set to out to explore the constructions of masculinity and risky sexual behavior by South African teenage Indian boys. Currently very little is known about how South African Indian boys construct masculinities as well how they perceive engagement in risky sexual behavior. This under-researched topic was the basis for undertaking this study. Using Connell’s (1996) theory on masculinities as a framework, I delved into the lives and experiences of South African teenage Indian boys and sought to gain further insight to an understanding of the factors that influence the way these boys construct their masculinities and risky sexual behaviors in the context of HIV/AIDS. Using a case study methodology, I interviewed ten teenage Indian boys from a co-ed high school on the Kwa-Zulu Natal south coast. Findings revealed that boys’ constructions of masculinities are influenced by various factors. Some boys were influenced by boys who displayed hegemonic masculine traits. Other boys opposed the traditional ideologies of masculinities and constructed their masculinities based on their own belief systems and perform their masculinities differently on the basis of their experiences. The study also found several groupings that boys adopted in constructing themselves and other boys. When it came to risky sexual behavior, the study found that the Indian boys were misinformed about sex. Further analysis of the data identified that their construction of masculinity often developed through peer acceptance and this was informed by the desire to elevate oneself amongst the peer group. Often this led to engagements in risky sexual behavior. Multiple sexual partners, refusal to seek advice in some instances and the pressure of peers were ways in which the boys asserted their masculinities, often opening themselves up to sexual risk. The study calls on educational institutions to increase their role in educating the youth of South Africa about sexually risky behaviours. I also suggest that these institutions amend their policies to curb bullying, violence and illegal activities.
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