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Safe sex pioneers: class identity, peer education and emerging masculinities among youth in Mozambique

Christian Groes-Green
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Institute of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Email:

Sexual Health 6(3) 233-240
Submitted: 26 February 2009  Accepted: 12 June 2009   Published: 3 August 2009


Studies on sexual behaviour within the area of HIV prevention in sub-Saharan Africa have largely focussed on unsafe sex and obstacles to condom use rather than examined factors potentially favouring safe sex. The present study examines how class, gender and peer education affects safe sex in male youth and identifies the reasons behind condom use by combining a questionnaire survey with ethnographic fieldwork. Findings from the field study among male secondary school youth in Maputo, Mozambique point to middle class youth from urban schools as more likely to use condoms than working class youth from suburban schools. Examining the meanings behind use or non-use of condoms the study identified narratives in middle class youth favouring safe sex in response to better social conditions, career opportunities and ‘modern’ masculinities, whereas working class youth explained non-use of condoms as due to lack of hope and job opportunities and by reference to fatalist ideas that life is out of their hands and that it’s better to ‘live in the moment’.

Additional keywords: class, masculinity, Mozambique, safe sex, youth.


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A ABy middle class youth, I refer to youth attending schools and living in the urban parts of the city characterised by a great number of concrete houses, a modern infrastructure, asphalt roads, electricity networks, water supplies and a number of hospitals and health clinics. Most families in urban Maputo have a high and steady income and usually one or both parents have completed a higher education. Working class youth refer to youth living in and attending schools on the outskirts of the city where a majority of houses are made of reed and other cheap materials and where electricity and water supplies are scarce. Families in this area suffer from unemployment, malnutrition and family members have little formal education.

B BThis article is limited to analysing data on the male cohort.

C CThe urban secondary schools with peer education were Escola Comercial de Maputo and Escola Secundaria Estrela Vermelha; urban schools without peer education were Escola Secundaria de Polana and Escola Secundaria Josina Machel. Suburban schools with peer education were Escola Secundaria de Llangane and Escola Secundaria Zedequias Maghalene; suburban schools without peer education were Escola Secundaria Quisse Mavota and Escola Secundaria de Malhazine.

D DKarlyn observes that from 1996 to 2001 the use of condoms with last non-marital or cohabitating partner increased from 23% to 34% in urban areas of Mozambique (PSI 2002) something that may be due to a change in youth sexual behaviour in Maputo.