'Sometimes taxi men are rough..' : young women's experiences of the risks of being a 'taxi queen'.
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The 'taxi queen' phenomenon in which young women become involved with older male taxi drivers while taking public transport has received little attention as an area of research. However, there are concerns that the exploitative nature of such practices of transactional sex may have public health consequences, in particular exposure to coercive sexual practices, risk of HIV infection, unwanted pregnancies, substance abuse, and economic vulnerability of young girls. This study aimed to explore the experiences of school-age girls of their relationships with public mini-bus taxi drivers, in order to achieve a better understanding of these relationships and their consequences. The study was conducted in 2009 in Cape Town and the southern Cape region in the Western Cape Province. Given the exploratory nature of the study, qualitative methodology was used. An open-ended qualitative interview guide was developed, and 25 interviews were conducted: 16 in Cape Town, and nine in the southern Cape region. Ages ranged from 13 to 31, although the majority were in their mid-teens. Thematic analysis of the interviews generated a rich and complex range of perspectives, with many contradictory perceptions and experiences emerging from the texts. While there was widespread recognition of the transactional and stigmatising nature of the relationship between older taxi drivers and so-called taxi queens, and that there were a range of physical and emotional risks related to these relationships, the research also highlighted the manner in which the phenomenon of taxi queens gives expression to issues both unique to the particular dynamics of these transactional relationships, as well reflective of the experiences of youth more generally. Thus, in considering young women's vulnerability to violent, coercive and risky practices that may endanger their health and well-being, greater understanding of the specificity and variability of these experiences, together with recognition of the resonances with broader concerns facing South African youth, are needed. It is important that responses to the taxi queen phenomenon do not simply problematise the young women, but rather address the larger context that both facilitates such relationships as well as exacerbates the impact.
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