Towards an Understanding of Transactional Sex and HIV Risk Among Female University Students in Fiji
HIV was first detected in the Pacific region in the Marshall Islands in 1984, reaching Papua New Guinea in 1987, and Fiji in 1989. By the end of 2008, there were 29,629 recorded cases of people living with HIV in the Pacific region, 99 per cent of which were reported in Papua New Guinea. Although HIV rates in Fiji are substantially lower than Papua New Guinea, with 333 confirmed cases by the end of 2009, there has been a gradual but steady rise in the annual number of cases. Recent estimates predict the number of people living with HIV in Fiji could be as high as 6500 by 2015. While Fiji does have a number of HIV volunteer counselling and testing facilities (VCT) located in urban centres, the stigma associated with HIV and the reported issues with client confidentiality often leads to poor testing uptake, particularly by those considered most at risk. The lack of testing capacity in rural areas in Fiji and concerns over confidentiality of results may leave some people unable, or unwilling, to seek testing and as a result HIV prevalence rates may be much higher than the reported number of cases.
Similar to recorded HIV cases in other Melanesian countries, the main mode of HIV transmission in Fiji is unprotected heterosexual intercourse, accounting for 88 per cent of recorded cases. As has been the case in the broader Pacific region, there has been an upward trend in diagnosis of people aged between 20 and 39 years, as well as among women, with this group representing approximately 49 per cent per cent of new infections since 2001. Indigenous Fijians are over represented in reported HIV cases making up 82 per cent of all confirmed cases, followed by Indo-Fijians (12 per cent) and other ethnic groups such as Europeans (6 per cent). Young women in Fiji are considered increasingly vulnerable to HIV due to social and gender inequalities. In particular, young women in Fiji who experience physical and sexual violence, both within and outside of relationships, including rape and gang rape, are thought to be particularly vulnerable to infection.
The introduction of HIV into Fiji and the broader Pacific region has lead the Fijian Government, non-government organisations and researchers to focus their attention on sexual behaviours, and in particular the risk-taking behaviours of young, unmarried people in Fiji. Concern has turned to the high levels of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among sub-groups of the Fijian population and the impact that this may have on the potential for high rates of sexual transmission of HIV. Attention has also been directed to the high levels of sexual assault and violence against women, early sexual debut and what is considered 'higher-risk' sexual behaviours, such as multiple partners and monetised forms of sexual exchange (e.g. commercial and transactional sex), coupled with low levels of condom use. The notion of sexual exchange may not be new to Fiji, however, it is increasingly being considered in terms of HIV risk and modern sexual cultures and practices, including young people's participation in transactional sex.
In this paper I discuss sexual exchange practices in the context of the emerging HIV epidemic in the Republic of the Fiji Islands, situated in the Pacific region of Melanesia. The looming epidemic has resulted in increased attention being placed on HIV risk and risk behaviours. However, little is still known about the modern sexual cultures and practices of young people in Fiji, including their engagement in transactional sex, and their subsequent HIV risk. While Fiji is a multi-ethnic society, in this article I consider issues surrounding transactional sex and HIV risk among indigenous Fijian women, primarily because of their heightened vulnerability. My paper examines current knowledge and identifies existing gaps relating to the sexual practices of female university students in Fiji. It draws on the work of scholars in other country settings to suggest a starting point from which an examination of transactional sex and HIV risk among female university students in Fiji can begin. Finally, I argue that while young women in Fiji may be engaging in sexual exchanges for material or financial resources, it may be problematic to uncritically adopt or simply transfer concepts and frameworks developed in other contexts (or settings) such as 'transactional sex' without first considering local cultures and practices. Instead, I suggest that an understanding of sexual exchanges and HIV risk in Fiji requires a framework that considers local sexual cultures and practices, masculinities and femininities, customs (including notions of exchange and gift giving), modernisation and urbanisation, along with the introduction of Western lifestyles and values.
Defining transactional sex
Transactional sex is commonly understood to be the exchange of sex for material or financial resources or gifts. Transactional sex has been linked to the spread of HIV, particularly among young women in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Concurrent sexual partners can increase HIV risk, as a significant number of people are sexually linked at any given time. Women who engage in transactional sex often have multiple, and/or concurrent relationships, where one man may provide them with money for rent, another clothes and so on. It is when this practice is combined with low levels of condom use and women's lowered ability to negotiate condom use that HIV risk is increased.
The motivating factors that lead young women to exchange sexual access for material or financial gain vary within, and between, different cultures and societies. Transactional sex is a complex, multifaceted exchange that can involve love, intimacy, desire, pleasure, power, money, exploitation and is shaped by socio-economic context, culture and religion. It is often framed as distinct from the concept of 'prostitution' or 'sex work', yet it overlaps with sex work in a number of ways. In both transactional sex and sex work, sexual relationships are contextualised through the exchange of sexual access for gifts or financial resources, although money or gifts are not necessarily given and obtained at all meetings or sexual encounters. Similarly, in both cases partners may be constructed through categories of 'boyfriends' and 'girlfriends', 'true loves', 'sweethearts', 'husbands' or 'wives' as well as 'clients' or 'customers'. However, whilst women who engage in commercial sex may self-identify with and embrace the category of 'sex worker', women who participate in transactional sex often see themselves and their sexual exchange practices as distinctly different to sex work, and at times attempt to distance themselves from the stigma that surrounds the practice.
During the mid-1980s in sub-Saharan Africa, when HIV had cemented itself as an epidemic, researchers began to look at HIV risk in the context of particular sexual behaviours, including sexual exchange practices. At this time, a number of theorists started questioning the appropriateness of using concepts such as 'prostitution' and 'sex work' to describe sexual exchange practices in Africa, arguing that these terms were morally laden and conceptually problematic for considering sexual exchanges within African contexts. By the 1990s there was a body of literature coming out of sub-Saharan Africa examining non-commercial sexual exchange behaviours, and by the end of the decade terms such as 'survival sex', 'informal sex' and 'transactional sex' were used widely in the literature concerning relationships involving monetised forms of sexual exchanges in the region.
Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala argues that by accentuating the economic and survival components that lead to women's engagement in sexual exchanges in Africa, terms such as 'survival sex' and 'informal sex', provide a more accurate and 'safer way to speak about sexual behaviour that was less Eurocentric, emotive and politically fraught.' Whether these terms, including 'transactional sex' have provided a more 'accurate' way of describing sexual exchanges is debatable, especially as many scholars concerned with sex work (some of whom have examined commercial sex in sub-Saharan Africa) also argue for the need to acknowledge the survival and economic components of commercial sex.
Research into the area of 'survival sex' in sub-Saharan Africa is primarily concerned with women who enter into sexual exchange relationships for economic survival and the impact that this economic dependency may have on their HIV risk. However, the prevailing assumption that transactional sex is primarily motivated by economic necessity has become increasingly problematic. A body of literature, based on qualitative studies from urban settings in sub-Saharan Africa, has challenged this belief. Instead, it has shown that there are many motivating factors that lead young, unmarried women into a sexual exchange, including consumption purposes. Alison Murray has also written about young women's engagement in sexual exchange for consumption purposes in the context of urban Indonesia. Although Murray did not define the sexual exchanges as 'transactional sex', she showed that consumerism, materialist expectations and social pressures all have a motivating affect on young middle-class women's engagement in sexual exchanges, which may be considered as falling within the scope of current definitions of transactional sex.
The use of 'transactional sex' has now gained currency globally to describe a variety of 'informal' sexual exchanges where material or financial resources are provided in exchange for sex. Although 'transactional sex' is still an evolving term without a concrete theory, it has provided scholars with an alternative framework for examining sexual exchanges, which do not fit neatly within traditional categories like 'prostitution', while also allowing an arena in which to discuss HIV risk among people who are not considered as part of most at-risk populations.
Transactional sex in the Pacific
Literature concerning sexual exchanges for material or financial gain within the Pacific region is minimal. However, evidence suggests that women in the Pacific were involved in exchanging sexual services for goods from the time of first contact with foreign sailors and explorers. Through an examination of the sexual encounters recorded in Officers' and Captains' journals during early contact with Polynesia scholars have suggested that soon after contact Polynesians began to see the commercial value of their young women. Sexual access to local women was therefore negotiated in exchange for goods such as axes, iron, nails, beads and cloth. Caroline Ralston argues that such sexual exchanges provided Polynesian women with direct access to highly valued and desired foreign goods, which in turn, gave them greater power and influence within their communities. However, Margaret Jolly asserts there is also evidence to suggest that some women were coerced into sexual exchanges by their kin.
While there is limited research concerning modern sexual exchange practices in the Pacific, available evidence suggests that the exchange of sex for cash and/or material resources is widespread in the region. In recent years, transactional sex has become increasingly prevalent in urban centres, as well as in development enclaves such as logging, mining, fish factories and some plantation sites. A number of government and non-government agencies have discussed transactional sex within the broader themes of HIV risk and sexual and reproductive health within the Pacific region. A number of scholars have also considered sexual exchange within a broader theme of sexuality and HIV prevention within Melanesia. This research suggests that, for some women, transactional sex is closely linked to subsistence needs and economic survival and is thus considered to be a form of 'survival sex'. For other women, including some women in Papua, sexual exchange is considered an avenue into love and marriage, a promise of wealth and a way of pushing sexual boundaries.
In addition, Holly Wardlow's examination of Huli pasinja meri (passenger women) in Papua New Guinea has shown that sexual exchange can be motivated by more than just material or financial gain. Her work suggests rather, that it can also be a form of resistance and rebellion against kin and repressive societal norms such as bridewealth transactions, and as a way of regaining 'individual possession' over one's sexuality, and can thus be considered a form of negative agency. Carol Jenkins has also challenged the theoretical frameworks of 'sex work' and 'prostitution' suggesting that due to the long history of sexual exchanges for goods within many Pacific Islands countries, there is a 'continuing definitional problem' with terms such as 'sex worker' or 'prostitute'. Thus, scholars of Melanesia have continued to challenge and redefine theoretical frameworks of sexual exchange both within the context of 'sex work' and 'transactional sex'.
This paper follows the lead of scholars such as Wardlow and Jenkins by suggesting that an exploration of sexual exchange practices within the Pacific region needs to move beyond the frameworks of 'sex work' and 'transactional sex'. Rather, a framework for understanding sexual exchanges needs to consider the role of local customs and exchange networks, dominant constructions of masculinity and femininity, local sexual cultures and practices as well as the impact of modernity, urbanisation and the transition to a cash-based economy. Whilst transactional sex offers a framework through which we can explore emerging sexual cultures and exchange practices in the Pacific, this framework needs to be redefined through a consideration of the multiple influences which shape the sexual lives of young women in the region.
Transactional sex in Fiji
Although there is a small body of literature concerning transactional sex in the Pacific region, to date the only research concerning monetised forms of sexual exchange in Fiji has focused on commercial sex. Whilst more is known about the Fijian sex trade in general, little is understood about the nature of transactional sex. However, there is anecdotal evidence which suggests that transactional sex occurs in Fiji. There are a number of factors contributing to this which will be discussed in this section— factors that may influence young women's, and in particular university students' participation in transactional sex.
- Redefining self through popular culture, consumerism and urban lifestyles in Fiji
Fiji has experienced significant social, political and economic changes including a shift from a subsistence-based agriculture economy to a cash-based economy, which has resulted in many people, and particularly young people, leaving rural villages to seek education or wage-earning employment in urban centres. Employment in rural areas in Fiji is usually informal and involves working with kin on farms, through fishing or cane harvesting to secure a livelihood, with people rarely in paid employment. Urban centres such as Fiji's capital Suva, offer the promise of greater educational and employment opportunities, as well as access to contemporary lifestyles that include modern technologies, globalised forms of media, popular cultures and consumerism. Whilst this may be true for some, Fiji's rapid urbanisation and modernisation has lead to a lack of job opportunities and accommodation in urban centres, which has meant that many who leave rural villages end up in squatter settlements on the outskirts of town, where there is poor access to water, sewerage and electricity services.
The effect that the introduction of Western technologies and values has had on the lifestyles and identities of people in Fiji is difficult to speculate; however, research concerning the impact that various forms of media have had on Fijian identity and society may provide some insight. Nii-K Plange reports that during the 1996 Fiji TV/VCR study many young people stated that they compared themselves to, and sometimes imitated, young people they saw on television and in videos in relation to things such as behaviours, lifestyles and material possessions. Similarly, Anne Becker's work on eating disorders in Fiji suggests that increasingly young indigenous Fijian women are modelling their appearance and behaviours on television characters, who for these young women, represent desirable, successful modern subjects with Western consumerist lifestyles. The high value that these young women appear to place on some television characters suggests that 'visual' displays of success are measured, to some extent, on a young woman's ability to refigure her behaviours and appearances to emulate the well groomed and thin images they see on television. Williams et al. study on body image attitudes among indigenous Fijian women has also suggested a possible link between modernisation and Western-based media and the desire to be thinner.
The above research appears to suggest that the introduction of Western values and globalised forms of media has, in part, reshaped how young people in Fiji construct themselves and understand the world around them. Although Becker and Williams et al. do not discuss the affect television has had on the sexual practices of young women in their studies, it may be fair to suggest that the media and subsequently popular culture and consumerism may also shape and influence the sexual lives of these young women. It may also be reasonable to speculate that a young indigenous Fijian woman's desire to be a successful modern subject may lead her to seek innovative ways to secure this 'visual' display of success, including engaging in transactional sex in order to secure fashionable clothes and other consumer goods as has been the case in other country settings and most notably urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa. A recent newspaper article in the Fiji Times may also support this argument. The story suggested that some young women are offering casual sex in order to secure cash to 'feed [their] consumer habits' and buy luxury items such as fashionable clothes, alcohol and cigarettes.
Young women, university and changing norms of gender and sexuality in Fiji
Increasingly, women in Fiji are participating in tertiary education and they often outnumber men in university enrolments. Traditionally, indigenous Fijian women lived with their natal family until marriage, after which they would usually live with their husband's group, often in another village. A young woman's extended family was responsible for protection and control of her sexuality and for educating her on proper social behaviours and traditional and cultural norms and values. However, women's increasing participation in tertiary education has meant they often leave their rural home prior to marriage to undertake study in Suva. For many young women living in urban areas, their sexuality is no longer so highly regulated and subsequently there are greater opportunities to engage in premarital sex with little chance of it becoming known to their immediate or extended family.
The university setting in Fiji has the potential to provide an environment in which young women have greater opportunities to engage in sexually transgressive practices, such as premarital sex, multiple partnerships and transactional sex, free from family surveillance and constraints. The freedom associated with campus life, and the prominent role campus cultures play in defining sexual behaviours within the university setting, may impact on, and also allow, young women to engage in a wide range of sexual practices. Available research suggests that risky practices such as multiple partnerships and low levels of condom use are in fact common among tertiary students in Fiji. However, whilst university environments, as well as urban living more broadly, may provide young indigenous Fijian women with an avenue to explore premarital sexual relationships, there is still negative stigma associated with premarital sex in indigenous Fijian society, and female virginity until marriage is still highly valued.
- Sex work in Fiji
The sex trade in Fiji is considered to be prevalent and highly visible, particularly in urban towns. The existence of commercial sex in Fijian society has been documented through NGO reports and research studies. In recent years sex work has become a prominent feature of newspaper articles, with headlines such as 'Teen girls turn to prostitution for luxury' and 'Poverty forcing young girls into prostitution in Fiji,' featuring in Fijian newspapers. There are many different types of monetised sexual exchange in Fiji, including both individual and organised forms of prostitution, with brothels running in many urban centres. Young women also work out of hotels, in nightspots and bars, through coordinated mobile phone networks, and in parks and on the streets, with young women who work on the streets often referred to as 'kalavo ni Viti' or 'the Fiji rats.' Foreign sex workers, including Chinese women brought in for the benefit of Asian sailors and fishermen, have also been reported in Fiji.
Women's participation in the sex industry has been linked to economic survival and other subsistence needs as well as for transportation, alcohol and tobacco and other 'luxury items,' and to acquire social prestige and respect through providing financial contributions to their family and the community. The presence and demand for commercial sex in Fiji suggests that an individual's willingness to pay for sexual access may also extend to other forms of sexual exchange, including transactional sex. This is also backed up by Karen McMillan and Heather Worth who suggest that young people frequently engage in transactional sex as part of their social life in Fiji.
- The importance of gift giving and reciprocity in indigenous Fijian culture
The giving of gifts is a fundamental part of the local cultures and social structures of indigenous Fijians, with gift giving playing a significant role in traditional ceremonies such as births, marriages and deaths as well as during casual visits among friends. A central component of indigenous Fijian exchange is reciprocity; when a friend provides yaqona (kava) or other goods when visiting it is normal for the host to reciprocate by offering yaqona, food or through displaying generosity, honour and appreciation by other means. Marilyn Strathern suggests that gift giving in Melanesian cultures must be considered as more than a simple exchange of objects from one person to another. Rather, such transactions can be understood as social acts whereby gift exchange helps to facilitate and maintain relationships between exchange partners and as a result helps to expand, preserve and mediate social relations, communication and social structures and hierarchies within a society.
Asesela Ravuvu argues that gift giving provides a platform in which the giver and receiver attempt to outdo each other over a period of time in an attempt to compete for social respect and prestige. Historically, in Melanesian societies where self-made leaders or Big Men defined themselves through their generosity as well as persuasiveness, eloquence and physical attributes, the provision of excess food during ceremonial exchanges was one way where generosity was displayed. This generosity allowed Big Men to assert their masculinity and distinguish themselves from other men in the hope of gaining high social standing and prestige with their community and, as a result, also contributed to construction of dominant forms of masculinity.
It is difficult to speculate whether gift exchange in the context of transactional sex would provide indigenous Fijian men with the same platform to assert their masculinity through displaying generosity. However, given the importance, social respect and prestige that are placed on gift giving within indigenous Fijian society, we can assume this may be the case. Further, in contemporary sexual practices, gift giving may extend beyond traditional forms of ceremonial exchanges and reciprocity between kin and friends to include/encompass men providing women with gifts in exchange for sexual access. A greater understanding of the importance of gift exchange in premarital relationships in Fiji is warranted and an exploration of the role gifts play in fuelling sexual relationships would help to contextualise and localise understandings of transactional sex and subsequently HIV risk in the country.
- Changing masculinities in Fiji
Historically, indigenous Fijian masculinity was defined through social and gender hierarchies as well as warfare, bodily performance, skills and personal attributes (such as generosity and bravery), ceremonial exchange and men's ability to father multiple children, all of which provided men with prestige and high social status. Modern indigenous Fijian masculinities are increasingly shaped by the interaction between traditional hierarchical social arrangements and customs, values, beliefs and practices, and modern influences such as religion, globalisation and the influx of Western media and values as well as masculinised institutions such as sporting codes and the military.
Miliakere Kaitani has shown that, among the urban indigenous Fijian men in her study, masculinity was also, in part, shaped and measured through a man's ability to secure multiple sexual partners. For some of these young men this was achieved through visiting Suva's nightclubs in search of sex, commonly referred to by her participants as the three Fs – fix, fuck and forget. For other men in her study masculinity was visually and physically asserted through their participation in, or observation of, gang rape (convoys), seen by them as a 'rite of passage' into manhood. Such practices significantly increase the risk of STI and HIV infection. As Kaitani suggests, masculinity was entwined with relations of power and thus contextualised, measured and positioned through the assertion, both visually and physically, of power over another person.
Kaitani's work suggests that power plays a pivotal role in local sexual cultures in Fiji. Dominant constructions of indigenous Fijian masculinity that value power and sexual prowess may interact with other factors such as changing social and sexual norms to shape the sexual practices and experiences not only of these young indigenous Fijian men but also young women. Dominant masculinities in Fiji that place high value on, and reward, multiple sexual partners may also provide an environment in which transactional sex can occur and be socially sanctioned. Further, these dominant masculinities may impede young women's capacity to negotiate safe sex, particularly in the context of transactional sex, and subsequently increase their HIV risk. In order to adequately address this risk a greater understanding of the role that dominant constructions and ideals of masculinity and femininity play in constructing and influencing local sexual cultures and the sexual lives of young women in Fiji is needed.
Transactional sex in other university settings – what can it tell us?
Literature concerning transactional sex within the university setting largely comes out of research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Uganda. Some of the more recent literature concerning transactional sex among female university students in Zimbabwe and Uganda has positioned sexual exchange practices clearly within a sex-for-consumption framework. These scholars have pointed to the higher cost of living, peer networks that place a high value on partnerships and material resources and a campus environment that ensures freedom of movement as central components through which transactional sex is legitimised. Peer groups place a high value on materialism and 'visible' success, which increases the pressure to look 'flashy' on campus, which they argue are key motivators for female students engagement in transactional sex.
The desire to be 'visible' and 'flashy' on campus, is achieved through what Tsitsi Masvawure describes as 'the conspicuous consumption of particular luxury goods.' Young women's 'visual' success is measured through a number of ways including owning fashionable clothes, the latest mobile phones and hairdos, eating takeaway food, and receiving lifts in expensive cars. Masvawure suggests that it is through owning the latest 'luxury' items, sporting the latest hairdo and consuming high-priced food that female university students are able to 'visibly' position themselves on campus as cultured, successful, mature, desirable, modern subjects distinctly different from their peers. In this respect, it is the prestige gained from the gifts that is considered important to young women, as well as their usefulness or financial worth.
The limited financial capacity of most young male university students in sub-Saharan Africa means that female students will often turn to older, married and financially secure men as a means of obtaining the latest 'luxury' goods and financial resources. These intergenerational relationships, known as 'sugar daddy' relationships, are defined by the significant age and economic asymmetries between partners. The risk of STIs and HIV infection is thought to increase when university students in sub-Saharan Africa, are involved in multiple sexual relationships. Jo Sadgrove suggests this may particularly be the case for female students involved in 'sugar daddy' relationships, where their male partners are more sexually experienced and thus more likely to have been exposed to STIs and HIV. Further, research has suggested that the uneven gender power relations present within 'sugar daddy' relationships may hinder female university students' ability to negotiate condom use, particularly when material or financial resources have been exchanged, which subsequently increases their STI and HIV risk.
While the above research was based outside of Melanesia and the broader Pacific region and therefore cannot be easily transferred to the context of a university setting in Fiji, it does provide some insight into the sexual lives of female university students in developing countries. In particular, it highlights the influence that Western trends, peer pressure, modern technologies and conspicuous consumption have in motivating young women's sexual behaviours. It also provides information on why condom use among university students is often low, despite a relatively high knowledge of STI and HIV risk. The above research may provide a basis for which we can begin to explore university settings in the Pacific. By no means do I suggest that the sexual behaviours of female university students in Fiji are likely to mirror that of young women engaging in transactional sex in sub-Saharan Africa. Rather, I assert that research concerning monetised forms of sexual exchanges within an African university setting can provide a starting point from which we can examine emerging sexual cultures and practices, including the potential for transactional sex, among university students in Fiji.
Towards an understanding of transactional sex and HIV risk among female university students in Fiji
Currently there is only anecdotal evidence to suggest that transactional sex is occurring in Fiji. Nevertheless, as I have shown, there are a number of factors that may influence, or have the potential to influence, female university students' participation in transactional sex. A greater understanding of the sexual practices of female university students in Fiji, including whether or not they participate in monetised forms of sexual exchange, is required in order to build an understanding of, and adequately address, HIV risk among this group. However, discussions about human sexuality in mixed company is considered taboo in indigenous Fijian society, and as many have documented, the cultural and religious taboos in Fiji associated with discussions of sex and sexuality makes it difficult to conduct research concerning sexual behaviours, practices, knowledge and beliefs.
Past research in the Pacific suggests that combining surveys, including behavioural surveillance surveys (BBS), with qualitative methods such as participant observation, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions (FGDs) and life histories, enables a greater understanding of the complex nature of young people's vulnerability to HIV. The use of FGDs and youth researchers is considered particularly valuable. Previous sexual and reproductive health research conducted with university students in Fiji has also highlighted the importance of qualitative methods, including FGDs. In particular, Jean Wright, Laisiasa Wainikesa and Mark Van Ommeren highlight the importance of holding FGDs that are separated by gender and ethnicity to ensure participants feel comfortable and willing to discuss sexual issues. This research provides us with some insight into the ways in which future sexual health and HIV research, including research concerning sexual exchange practices, may best be carried out in the university setting in Fiji. It clearly points to the importance of qualitative research methods that are discreet, and provide non-threatening and familiar environments, such as female only and/or culturally-specific FGDs.
- Transferring 'transactional sex' into a Fijian context – can it work?
While the use of the term 'transactional sex' has provided scholars in sub-Saharan Africa with an alternative framework for discussing informal sexual exchanges where material or financial resources are provided in exchange for sexual access, its use outside of sub-Saharan Africa may not easily translate. In particular, care must be taken to acknowledge the '[e]pistemological and ethical difficulties [that] exist in translating categories, terms, and languages used in one historical and cultural context to another.' It may be problematic to simply transfer the concept of transactional sex, as defined by scholars in sub-Saharan Africa, into another cultural context without first critically evaluating its relevance. Although transactional sex does provide us with a much-needed alternative framework for understanding sexual exchanges, we need to consider the historical and cultural specificity of sexual practices and cultures in the Pacific, and more importantly in Fiji to ensure they are not misinterpreted or misrepresented.
Such a framework of transactional sex requires an understanding of the complex interaction of multiple influences in the sexual lives of young women in Fiji. As I have shown, an examination of contemporary sexual practices must take into account the role that dominant constructions of masculinity play in reinforcing multiple partnerships and monetised forms of sexual exchange; the impact of gender inequality on young women's negotiation of sex; rapid social, cultural and economic change, including the impact of Western values and lifestyles and increased consumerist ideals and how this may be transforming local sexual cultures; and the role of pre-existing cultural practices, such as reciprocity and gift giving, in relation to sexual relationships. Through such a framework we can perhaps begin to examine the impact that monetised forms of sexual exchange may have on increasing young women's exposure to, and risk of, HIV in Fiji.
The emerging HIV epidemic in Fiji has resulted in increased attention being paid to the sexual practices of young people, and specifically their engagement in high-risk sexual behaviours. However, as this paper highlights little is known about the modern sexual cultures and practices of young people in Fiji, including their participation in transactional sex. While female university students may not be considered a 'high risk' group, I have attempted to show that it is probable that some of these young women may be engaging in higher risk sexual activities, including transactional sex, and therefore may face an increased risk of HIV. Subsequently, I argue that a deeper understanding of the sexual practices of this group is required to adequately understand and address their HIV risk. In particular, I suggest the need for research that examines the role of historical and modern forces in shaping contemporary sexual practices.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that monetised forms of sexual exchange may well exist among female university students in Fiji. I have argued, however, that it is problematic to uncritically adopt and transfer labels and frameworks without an in-depth understanding of how such social phenomena are situated in local practices and cultures. Rather, I suggest that a framework needs to be developed that firstly, critically interrogates the concepts of sex work and transactional sex and secondly, is able to take into account the complex interaction of multiple influences in the sexual lives of young women in Fiji. It is only through a critical examination of these concepts along with an in-depth understanding of these overlapping factors that we will be able to develop a framework for understanding sexual exchange practices in Fiji. In turn, this may lead to the development of more appropriate and effective responses to HIV for young women, and in particular university students in the Pacific.
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 It has been estimated that there may be up to 54,000 people living with HIV in Papua New Guinea. UNAIDS, Turning the tide.
 UNAIDS, UNGASS 2010 Country Progress Report Fiji Islands, 2010, URL: http://data.unaids.org/pub/Report/2010/fiji_2010_country_progress_report_en.pdf, site accessed 5th May 2010.
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 The 2004–2005 Second Generation Surveillance (SGS) survey conducted in 6 Pacific Islands countries (Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu) recorded high rates of chlamydia among antenatal clinic (ANC) attendees in Suva (29 per cent), with 2.6 per cent infected with syphilis and 1.7 per cent with gonorrhoea. Susan Cliffe, Yueping Wang and Elizabeth Sullivan, Second Generation Surveillance Surveys of HIV, Other STIs and Risk Behaviours in 6 Pacific Islands Countries, Manila: World Health Organization, 2006. The 2008 SGS survey conducted in Fiji also showed high rates of chlamydia among ANC attendees (26.8 per cent), with 2.7 per cent infected with syphilis and 2.2 per cent with gonorrhoea. UNAIDS, UNGASS 2010 Country Progress Report Fiji Islands.
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 Kristin Dunkle, Rachel Jewkes, Heather Brown, Glenda Gray, James McIntryne and Sioban Harlow, 'Transactional sex among women in Soweto, South Africa: prevalence, risk factors and association with HIV infection,' in Social Science and Medicine, vol. 59, no. 8 (2004): 1581–92; Mark Hunter, 'The materiality of everyday sex: thinking beyond "prostitution",' in African Studies, vol. 61, no. 1 (2002): 99–120; Nancy Luke, 'Confronting the sugar daddy stereotype: age and economic asymmetries and risky sexual behavior in urban Kenya,' in International Family Planning Perspectives, vol. 31, no. 1 (2005): 6–14; Margrethe Silberschmidt and Vibeke Rasch, 'Adolescent girls, illegal abortions and sugar-daddies in Dar es Salaam: vulnerable victims and active social agents,' in Social Science and Medicine, vol. 52, no. 12 (2001): 1815–26.
 Martina Morris and Mirjam Kretzschmar, 'Concurrent partnerships and the spread of HIV,' in AIDS, vol. 11, no. 5 (1997): 641–48.
 Hunter, 'The materiality of everyday sex'; Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala, 'Transactional sex and the pursuit of modernity,' in Social Dynamics, vol. 29, no. 2 (2003): 213–33; Tsitsi Masvawure, '"I just need to be flashy on campus": female students and transactional sex at a university in Zimbabwe,' in Culture, Health and Sexuality, vol. 12, no. 8 (2010): 857–70; Jo Sadgrove, '"Keeping up appearances": sex and religion amongst university students in Uganda,' in Journal of Religion in Africa, vol. 37, no. 1 (2007): 116–44.
 Leclerc-Madlala, 'Transactional sex and the pursuit of modernity'.
 Augustine Ankomah, 'Sex, love, money and AIDS: the dynamics of premarital sexual relationships in Ghana,' in Sexualities, vol. 2, no. 3 (1999): 291–308; Hunter, 'The materiality of everyday sex'; Masvawure, '"I just need to be flashy on campus"'.
 Chatterji et al., 'The factors influencing transactional sex'; Hunter, 'The materiality of everyday sex'; Luke, 'Confronting the sugar daddy stereotype'.
 Hunter, 'The materiality of everyday sex'; Kim Longfield, 'Rich fools, spare tyres and boyfriends: partner categories, relationship dynamics and Ivorian women's risk for STIs and HIV,' in Culture, Health and Sexuality, vol. 6, no. 6 (2004): 483–500; Maganja, 'Skinning the goat and pulling the load'; David Wilkinson and Gillian Fletcher, Sex Talk: Peer Ethnographic Research with Male Students and Waitresses in Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh: PSI, 2002, 1–39; David Wilkinson and Gillian Fletcher, Love, Sex and Condoms: Sweetheart Relationships in Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh: PSI, 2002.
 Hunter, 'The materiality of everyday sex'; Leclerc-Madlala, 'Transactional sex and the pursuit of modernity'; Catherine MacPhail and Catherine Campbell, '"I think condoms are good but, aai, I hate those things": condom use among adolescents and young people in a Southern African township,' in Social Science and Medicine, vol. 52, no. 11 (2001): 1613–27; Janet Wojcicki, 'Commercial sexwork or ukuphanda? Sex-for-money exchange in Soweto and Hammanskraal area, South Africa,' in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, vol. 26, no. 3 (2002): 339–70.
 Leclerc-Madlala, 'Transactional sex and the pursuit of modernity'.
 For instance, Maxine Ankrah, 'AIDS: methodological problems in studying its prevention and spread,' in Social Science and Medicine, vol. 29, no. 3 (1989): 265–76; Nici Nelson, '"Selling her kiosk": Kikuyu notions of sexuality and sex for sale in Mathare Valley, Kenya,' in The Cultural Constructions of Sexuality, ed. Pat Caplan, London: Tavistock Publications, 1987, pp. 217–39; Hilary Standing, 'AIDS: conceptual and methodological issues in researching sexual behaviour in sub-Saharan Africa,' in Social Science and Medicine, vol. 34, no. 5 (1992): 475–83; Wojcicki, 'Commercial sexwork or ukuphanda?'.
 Leclerc-Madlala, 'Transactional sex and the pursuit of modernity'; Wojcicki, 'Commercial sexwork or ukuphanda?'.
 Leclerc-Madlala, 'Transactional sex and the pursuit of modernity,' p. 216.
 For instance, Marjolein Gysels, Robert Pool and Betty Nnalusiba, 'Women who sell sex in a Ugandan trading town: life histories, survival strategies and risk,' in Social Science and Medicine, vol. 54, no. 2 (2002): 179–92; Peggy Ntseane, 'Addressing poverty, unemployment and gender inequality in Southern Africa: an alternative strategy for HIV/AIDS prevention with sex workers in Botswana,' in Convergence, vol. 27, no. 4 (2004): 9–22.
 For instance, Ankomah, 'Sex, love, money and AIDS'; Chatterji et al., 'The factors influencing transactional sex'; Hunter, 'The materiality of everyday sex'; Nancy Luke and Kathleen Kurz, Cross-generational and Transactional Sexual Relations in Sub-Saharan Africa: Prevalence of Behavior and Implications for Negotiating Safer Sexual Practices, Washington: International Centre for Research on Women, 2002; MacPhail and Campbell, '"I think condoms are good but, aai, I hate those things"'; Jennifer Wagman, Joy Baumgartner, Cindy Geary, Neema Nakyanjo, William Ddaaki, David Serwadda, Ron Gray, Fred Nalugoda and Maria J. Wawer, 'Experiences of sexual coercion among adolescent women: qualitative findings from Raki district, Uganda,' in Journal of Interpersonal Violence, vol. 24, no. 12 (2009): 2073–95; Janet Wojcicki, 'She drank his money: survival sex and the problem of violence in taverns in Gauteng province, South Africa,' in Medical Anthropology Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 3 (2002): 267–93.
 Hunter, 'The materiality of everyday sex'; Carol Kaufman and Stavros Stavrou, '"Bus fare please": the economics of sex and gifts among young people in urban South Africa,' in Culture, Health and Sexuality, vol. 6, no. 5 (2004): 377–91; Leclerc-Madlala, 'Transactional sex and the pursuit of modernity'; Masvawure, '"I just need to be flashy on campus"'; S. Nyanzi, R. Pool and J. Kinsman, 'The negotiation of sexual relationships among school pupils in south-western Uganda,' in AIDS Care, vol. 13, no. 1 (2001): 83–98; Sadgrove, '"Keeping up appearances"'; Silberschmidt and Vibeke Rasch, 'Adolescent girls, illegal abortions and sugar-daddies in Dar es Salaam'.
 Alison Murray, Pink Fits: Sex, Subcultures and Discourses in the Asia-Pacific, Melbourne: Monash Asia Institute, 2001.
 Carol Jenkins, 'HIV/AIDS, culture, and sexuality in Papua New Guinea,' in Cultures and Contexts Matter: Understanding and Preventing HIV in the Pacific, ed. Carol Jenkins and Holly Buchanan-Aruwafu, Manila: Asian Development Bank, 2007, pp. 5–71; Margaret Jolly, 'Desire, difference and disease: sexual and venereal exchanges on Cook's voyage in the Pacific,' in Exchanges: Cross-Cultural Encounters in Australia and the Pacific, ed. Ross Gibson, Sydney: Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, 1996, pp. 187–217; Caroline Ralston, 'Changes in the lives of ordinary women in early post-contact Hawaii,' in Family and Gender in the Pacific: Domestic Contradictions and the Colonial Impact, ed. Margaret Jolly and Martha Macintyre, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 45–64; Serge Tcherké'zoff, 'A reconsideration of the role of Polynesian women in early encounters with Europeans: supplement to Marshall Sahlins' voyage around the islands of history,' in Oceanic Encounters: Exchange, Desire, Violence, ed. Margaret Jolly, Serge Tcherkézoff and Darrell Tryon, Canberra: ANU E Press, 2009, pp. 113–59.
 Jolly, 'Desire, difference and disease'; Tcherkézoff, 'A reconsideration of the role of Polynesian women in early encounters with Europeans.'
 Ralston, 'Changes in the lives of ordinary women in early post-contact Hawaii.'
 Margaret Jolly, 'Lascivious Ladies, Beasts of Burden and Voyaging Voyeurs: Representations of Women from Cook's Voyages in the Pacific,' paper prepared for David Nicholl Smith Seminar IX 'Voyages and beaches, discovery and the Pacific, 1700–1840', University of Auckland, August 24–28 cited in Jolly, 'Desire, difference and disease,' p. 192.
 Penelope Schoeffel, Gender and HIV in the Pacific Islands Region: A Review of Evidence, Policies and Strategies with Recommendations, Suva: UNDP Pacific centre, 2009; UNICEF, Pacific: Children and HIV/AIDS a Call to Action, Bangkok: UNICEF East Asia and Pacific regional office, 2006.
 AusAID, Intensifying the Response: Halting the Spread of HIV, Canberra: Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), 2009; FPI, A Measure of the Future: Women's Sexual and Reproductive Risk Index for the Pacific 2009, Family Planning International, 2009; Holly Buchanan-Aruwafu, An Integrated Picture: HIV Risk and Vulnerability in the Pacific. Research Gaps, Priorities and Approaches, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 2007,URL: http://www.spc.int/hiv/images/stories/review%20risk%20and%20vulnerability%20integrated%20picture%20adjusted1.pdf; UNICEF, Pacific: Children and HIV/AIDS.
 Bettina Beer, 'Buying betel and selling sex: contested boundaries, risk milieus, and discourses about HIV/AIDS in the Markham Valley, Papua New Guinea,' in Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality, and Power in Melanesia, ed. Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, pp. 97–115; Leslie Butt, '"Secret sex": youth, agency, and changing sexual boundaries among the Dani of Papua, Indonesia,' in Ethnology, vol. 46, no. 2 (2007): 113–32; Leslie Butt, 'Silence speaks volumes: elite responses to AIDS in Highland Papua,' in Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality, and Power in Melanesia, ed. Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, pp. 116–32; Nicole Haley, 'When there's no accessing basic health care: local politics and responses to HIV/AIDS at Lake Kopiago, Papua New Guinea,' in Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality, and Power in Melanesia, ed. Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, pp. 24–40; Holly Wardlow, 'Anger, economy, and female agency: Problematizing "prostitution" and "sex work" among Huli of Papua New Guinea,' in Signs: Journal of women in culture and society, vol. 29, no 4 (2004): 1017–40.
 Beer, 'Buying betel and selling sex'; Haley, 'When there's no accessing basic health care.'
 Butt, 'Silence speaks volumes.'
 Wardlow, 'Anger, economy, and female agency'; Holly Wardlow, Wayward Women: Sexuality and Agency in a New Guinea Society, California: University of California Press, 2006.
 Jenkins, HIV/AIDS in the Pacific, p. 10.
 ADB, Country Gender Assessment: Republic of the Fiji Islands, Philippines: Pacific Regional Department and Regional and Sustainable Development Department Asian Development Bank, 2006; Cliffe, Wang and Sullivan, Second Generation Surveillance Surveys of HIV, Other STIs and Risk Behaviours in 6 Pacific Islands Countries; Jenkins, HIV/AIDS in the Pacific; Karen McMillan and Heather Worth, Risky Business: Sex Work and HIV Prevention in Fiji, Sydney: International HIV Research Group UNSW, 2010; STC, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Children in Fiji: A Situational Analysis, Suva: Save the Children, 2004.
 McMillan and Worth, Risky Business.
 Anne Becker, 'Television, disordered eating, and young women in Fiji: negotiating body image and identity during rapid social change,' in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, vol. 28, no. 4 (2004): 533–59; Nii-K Plange, Generation in Transition: Pacific Youth and The Crisis of Change in the Late Twentieth Century, Suva: University of the South Pacific, 2000; Patrick Vakaoti, 'In the system but out of place: understanding street-frequenting young people in Suva, Fiji,' unpublished PhD thesis, Brisbane: Univeristy of Queensland, 2007.
 Plange, Generation in Transition.
 Plange, Generation in Transition.
 Plange, Generation in Transition.
 Becker, 'Television, disordered eating, and young women in Fiji.'
 Lauren Williams, Lina Ricciardelli, Marita McCabe, Gade Waqa and Kelera Bavadra, 'Body image attitudes and concerns among indigenous Fijian and European Australian adolescent girls,' in Body Image, vol. 3, no. 3 (2006): 275–87.
 For instance, Masvawure, '"I just need to be flashy on campus"'; Sadgrove, '"Keeping up appearances".'
 Margaret Wise, 'Teen girls turn to prostitution for luxury,' in Fiji Times Online, November 15 (2008), paragraph 4, URL: http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=106281, site accessed 7 June 2010.
 USP, USP Statistics 2008, Suva: University of the South Pacific, 2008.
 Miliakere Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap: the changing reproductive and sexual expectations of Fijian men,' unpublished PhD thesis, Canberra: Australian National University, 2003; Asesela Ravuvu, Vaka I Taukei: The Fijian Way of Life, Suva: University of the South Pacific, 1983.
 Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap'; Christina Toren, Making Sense of Hierarchy: Cognition as Social Process in Fiji, London: The Athlone Press, 1990.
 Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap.'
 Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap'; UNAIDS, UNGASS 2010 Country Progress Report Fiji Islands.
 Anne Becker, Body, Self, and Society: The View From Fiji, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995; Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap.'
 ADB, Country Gender Assessment; McMillan and Worth, Risky Business.
 ADB, Country Gender Assessment; Cliffe, Wang and Sullivan, Second Generation Surveillance Surveys of HIV, other STIs and Risk Behaviours in 6 Pacific Islands Countries; Jenkins, HIV/AIDS in the Pacific; McMillan and Worth, Risky business; STC, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Children In Fiji.
 Wise, 'Teen girls turn to prostitution for luxury'; RNF, 'Poverty forcing young girls into prostitution in Fiji,' in Raw Fiji News, 29 June (2009), URL: http://rawfijinews.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/poverty-forcing-young-girls-into-prostitution-in-fiji/, site accessed 7 June 2010.
 STC, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Children in Fiji
 Jenkins, HIV/AIDS in the Pacific; Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap,' p. 233; McMillan and Worth, Risky Business; STC, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Children in Fiji.
 Jenkins, HIV/AIDS in the Pacific; McMillan and Worth, Risky Business.
 McMillan and Worth, Risky Business; STC, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Children in Fiji; Wise, 'Teen girls turn to prostitution for luxury.'
 McMillan and Worth, Risky business.
 Ravuvu, Vaka I Taukei.
 Marilyn Strathern, The Gender of the Gift, California: University of California Press, 1988.
 Ravuvu, Vaka I Taukei.
 Gary Ferraro, Cultural Anthropology: An Applied Perspective, California: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008.
 Edwin Jones, 'Fijian masculinity and alcohol use: an ethnographic study of male drinkers living in Qauia settlement,' unpublished Masters thesis, Suva: University of the South Pacific, 2009; Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap'; Ravuvu, Vaka I Taukei; James Turner, 'Ritual, habitus, and hierarchy in Fiji,' in Ethnology, vol. 31, no. 4 (1992): 291–302.
 Karen Brison, Our Wealth is Loving Each Other: Self and Society in Fiji, Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2007; Jones, 'Fijian masculinity and alcohol use'; Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap'; Teresia Teaiwa, 'Articulated cultures: militarism and masculinities in Fiji during the mid 1990s,' in Fijian Studies, vol. 3, no. 2 (2005): 201–22.
 Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap.'
 UNAIDS, Turning the Tide.
 Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap.'
 For instance, Zimbabwe – Masvawure, '"I just need to be flashy on campus"'; Tsitsi Masvawure, Paul Terry, Sue Adlis and Marvellous Mhloyi, 'When "no" means "yes": the gender implications of HIV programming in a Zimbabwean university,' in Journal of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, vol. 8, no. 5 (2009): pp. 291–98. Nigeria – Stella Iwuagwu, Ademola Ajuwon and I.O. Olaseha, 'Sexual behaviour and the negotiation of the male condom by female students of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria,' in Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, vol. 20, no.5 (2000): 507–13; A.M. Sunmola, 'Evaluating the sexual behaviour, barriers to condom use and its actual use by university students in Nigeria,' in AIDS Care, vol. 17, no. 4 (2005): 457–65. Uganda – Sadgrove, '"Keeping up appearances".'
 Masvawure, '"I just need to be flashy on campus"'; Sadgrove, '"Keeping up appearances".'
 Masvawure, '"I just need to be flashy on campus",' p. 5.
 Masvawure, '"I just need to be flashy on campus"'; Sadgrove, '"Keeping up appearances".'
 Masvawure, '"I just need to be flashy on campus".'
 Masvawure, '"I just need to be flashy on campus"'; Sadgrove, '"Keeping up appearances".'
 Luke, 'Confronting the sugar daddy stereotype.'
 Sadgrove, '"Keeping up appearances".'
 Sadgrove, '"Keeping up appearances"'; Sunmola, 'Evaluating the sexual behaviour, barriers to condom use and its actual use by university students in Nigeria.'
 McMillan and Worth, Risky Business.
 Kaitani, 'Bridging the gap'; Jean Wright, Laisiasa Wainikesa and Mark Van Ommeren, 'Sexual health in a Pacific campus: a pilot evaluation of a peer education approach,' in Pacific Health Dialogue, vol. 6, no.1 (1999): 74–76.
 Holly Buchanan-Aruwafu and Rose Maebiru, 'Smoke and fire: desire and secrecy in Auki, Solomon Islands,' in Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality, and Power in Melanesia, ed. Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, pp. 168–86; Shirley Lindenbaum, 'Foreward,' in Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality, and Power in Melanesia, ed. Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, pp. vii–xiii; Christine Salomon and Christine Hamelin, 'Why are Kanak women more vulnerable than others to HIV? Ethnographic and statistical insight from New Caledonia,' in Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality, and Power in Melanesia, ed. Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, pp. 80–96.
 Jean Wright, Laisiasa Wainikesa and Mark Van Ommeren, 'Sexual health in a Pacific campus: a peer education approach,' in Pacific Health Dialogue, vol. 6, no.1 (1999): 71–73; Wright, Wainikesa and Van Ommeren, 'Sexual health in a Pacific campus.'
 Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, 'Introduction,' in Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality, and Power in Melanesia, ed. Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008, p 15.