Adolescent Perspective on Sexual Debut in the South-West Indian Ocean: A Regional Study
Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès, Université de Montréal
Mariam Gopaul, University of Mauritius
Although more and more reproductive health interventions in the South-West Indian Ocean, including those targeting adolescents, are taken on a regional basis, information on sexual initiation is scattered, dated and difficult to compare. The study uses unique data from 116 focus groups conducted in 2007 among male and female adolescents in urban and rural areas of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion and Seychelles to provide a regional portrait of adolescent perceptions on sexual debut. Data show that adolescent premarital sexual activity is viewed as normal and acceptable in Réunion and Seychelles while it remains stigmatized, especially for girls, in Comoros, Madagascar and, to a lesser extent, in Mauritius. In all five islands, traditional norms of masculinity and double sexual standards prevail. In Madagascar, Mauritius and Comoros, female premarital virginity is portrayed as increasingly in conflict with adolescents’ life and sexually active female adolescents are facing high social and reproductive health risks.