a1 School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, Republic of South Africa
Coercion may play an important role in compelling young women to engage in sexual intercourse at an early age. With a decline in age at first intercourse and increased reporting of coercive first sex, concerns of adverse reproductive health outcomes such as unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, have become important issues, particularly in the context of a high HIV prevalence. This paper uses data collected in 2001 from the second round of a longitudinal study of 1130 sexually experienced young women in KwaZulu-Natal to investigate the relationship between coerced first intercourse and selected reproductive health outcomes and behaviours. Nearly 46% of all sexually experienced young women had reported that their first sexual encounter had been coerced. Young women who reported being coerced at first sex were significantly more likely to be Black and living in an urban area. Those who had been coerced at first sex were also more likely to report having had an STI and having experienced unintended pregnancy, than those who had not been coerced at first sex. Coercion at first sex is an important social and public health problem that has a serious impact on the reproductive health and behaviours of young women. Interventions should directly address the issue of sexual coercion by ensuring young women are aware of their reproductive rights.