Toward a Historical Perspective on Sexuality in Uganda: The Reproductive Lifeline Technique for Grandmothers and their Daughters
Abstract

Current health research on HIV-AIDS in Uganda is predominantly ahistorical and acultural. This is an inadequate analysis of a profoundly social epidemic, especially as the burden of disease shifts from adults to adolescents. As well, many Ugandan adults hold unexamined attitudes about adolescent sexuality, often declaring that today's youth are recklessly sexually active at a much younger age than in the past. This paper presents new data on sexuality reaching across three generations of Ugandans. These data were collected with an original qualitative social scientific research method—the reproductive lifeline technique. Building on the focus group method, this exercise is designed to produce fertility data with historical depth of several generations of women, and to encourage parents to speak more openly with their own children about reproduction and sexuality. This paper analyzes one particular demographic variable, age at first live birth, in an effort to theorize about change over time in another important variable, age at sexual debut. The results were surprising: age at first live birth has not changed significantly over the past forty years in western Uganda and some evidence suggests that age at sexual debut has not changed much either. Several explanations are offered to explain the discrepancy between the demographic evidence and the cultural norms held by adults about adolescent sexual behaviors.


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