Global health anthropology
NRC-NORGLOBAL Research Project 2016-19


University students negotiating competing discourses of sexuality, fertility control and abortion in Ethiopia

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Post-doctoral project: Higher education in Ethiopia has witnessed rapid expansion and policy reforms over the past decade. While the expansion is a positive step, students face a number of academic and social challenges. Research indicates that male and female students at higher education institutions in Ethiopia are highly sexually active contrary to the dominant norms that restrict the sexual involvement of young people - especially for women. Due to silence around the issue of sexuality in Ethiopia, students enter universities and colleges with very limited sexual and reproductive health knowledge. Some of the other factors that expose them to risky sexual practices include lack of parental control, peer pressure and widespread substance use.

Problems related to the sexual practices of university students are complex and involve a number of structural and contextual factors. The present research will look at the dominant discourses of sexuality, fertility control and abortion in Ethiopia that students encounter. It will attempt to assess how students negotiate with these discourses to make decisions on their sexual and reproductive health practices. How gender intersects with the dominant discourses of sexuality and reproductive health is another area that the present research tries to address. What would be interesting is also to investigate female students’ resistances to silences and taboos about sexuality. 

Fieldwork: September-December 2016 among students at Addis Ababa University (in September with Haldis Haukanes).