Lost in freedom: ambivalence on sexual freedom among Burundian adolescents living in the Nakivale refugee settlement, Uganda

This paper by Yvette Ruzibiza, Lidewyde Berckmoes, Stella Neema and Ria Reis explores how Burundian adolescents in the Nakivale refugee settlement, Uganda, experience umwidegemvyo, loosely translated as “freedom”, with regard to their sexuality. The authors draw on ethnographic research conducted between August and November 2017 with adolescents aged 13–19 years. The research included in-depth individual interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation. The authors present a context-sensitive appreciation of “freedom” and its social implications for adolescents’ sexual and love relationships. They show how adolescents attribute their sexual experiences and practices, including experimental sex, stress-relief sex and transactional sex, to the freedom experienced in the refugee context. Yet the adolescents also view this freedom with ambivalence: while some degree of freedom is desirable, too much is referred to in terms of kutitabwaho n’ababyeyi, loosely translated as “parental neglect”, implying a lack of parental involvement, care and provisioning.

This article has been published in Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 29:1, DOI: 10.1080/26410397.2021.1889750.

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Author(s) / editor(s)

Yvette Ruzibiza, Lidewyde Berckmoes, Stella Neema, Ria Reis

About the author(s) / editor(s)

Yvette Ruzibiza is a PhD fellow at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam

Lidewyde Berckmoes is Assistant Professor Regional conflict in contemporary Africa at the African Studies Centre Leiden

Stella Neema is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Makerere University

Ria Reis is Professor of Medical Anthropology, Leiden University

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