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Migration, gender, and urban sexual economies in Nigeria

Daniel Smith, Brown University

This paper focuses on understanding how single young female migrants from southeastern Nigeria traverse and survive urban life in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria and a major destination for rural-urban migrants. Although the ways in which young female migrants participate in urban sexual economies are typically seen as evidence of gender unequal systems and processes, ethnographic data suggest that the situation is more nuanced. While many forms of young female migrants’ participation in Kano’s sexual economy can be viewed as exploitive, in a number of circumstances women utilize their sexual relationships with men productively, raising questions about the ultimate effects of these practices vis-à-vis issues of gender inequality. The experiences of the young female migrants who were the subject of this study suggest that the moral dimensions of this sexual economy can have equal or greater consequences for the reproduction of gender inequality relative to the material aspects.

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Presented in Session 119: Female migration 2