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Transactional sex – the exchange of sex for cash, goods, services, commodities or privileges - is a common livelihood strategy in contexts of disaster and conflict, such as Colombia, DRC and Pakistan, for example. It takes a variety of forms, from sex work to sugar daddy relations to occasional transactions, and may fall anywhere along a spectrum from the voluntary to the implicitly coercive. Transactional sex can help people survive or improve their situation but is a precarious and risky strategy, rooted in unequal power relations. Although there is evidence that transactional sex is widely prevalent in humanitarian emergencies, it is poorly understood, and often conflated with or reduced to sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector. Better understanding of transactional sex in these contexts is hampered by biases and taboos that may (re)produce or even aggravate structural violence against the people involved.
This panel will explore the dimensions of transactional sex as a livelihood strategy in humanitarian contexts, including the structural, social, economic, and individual factors that shape it. It will take as its departure point the views and experiences of people engaging in transactional sex, and look at how humanitarian actors can better support them.