Love matters: romantic and sexual relationships among youth of slums of Mumbai Metropolitan

Shrikant Singh, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS)
Nidhi Sharma, International institute for Population Sciences (IIPS)

Slums house a mix of traditional and modern values regarding sex and sexuality. Overcrowded living conditions result in relaxation of restrictive social norms and sexual segregation offering varied avenues for sexual experiences. We aim to understand the youth’s attitude towards romantic and emotional relationships; sex and sexuality conduct among unmarried, low-income youth. Data used is triangulated from 54 in-depth interviews and survey among 1239 men age 18 to 29 selected from three slums of Mumbai adopting randomized clustered sampling technique, during 2005-2009. Guttmann's scale is used to capture various dimensions of relational satisfaction after testing of reliability. Premarital partnerships among youth are widely discouraged in India; yet, despite strict sanctions, nearly 10% of young women and 15–30% of young men form such partnerships. Attitude of youth is changing from romantic relationship to more casual sexual relations. 80% of romantic relationships are translated in sex. 10% of respondents reported sex with more than 2 girlfriends in last one year and 22% of respondents reported their “girlfriend” as married cohabitating with husband. Further, one-fourth of these girlfriends was relatives, neighbor or co-worker and was friends only for sexual benefits with no emotional dimension. Partner transition is based on perceived relational satisfaction. Higher relationship satisfaction with girlfriend is translating into lower multi-partner, less coercive sex but also lower condom use, whereas, better communication is affecting condom use and multi-partner positively but coercive sex negatively. Satisfaction with self is resulting in reduced multi-partner and also less cohesive sex. Those who reported more than one girlfriend reported lowest condom use with the first girlfriend (4%) whereas alcohol use and also coercive sex increased as we move to subsequent partners. Findings facilitate understanding of changing sexual culture & behaviors and highlights need to fully informed and equipped youth to make safe choices.

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Presented in Session 10: Norms, attitudes and sexual behaviour