|Romance and Pleasure
Understanding the Sexual Conduct of Young People in
Dhaka in the Era of HIV and AIDS
ISBN 984 05 1734 1 2005 201pp 215x136mm HB Tk.300.00 US$23.00
Romance and Pleasure portrays the social and cultural setting of urban Dhaka to understand sexual conduct and the factors that contribute to sexual health risks, including pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV, among unmarried, college-going young people. The book also presents the situation in a wider context, by examining gender-related values and societal norms on the nature of relationships among young people.
Marriage is a central pillar in the social construction of sexuality in Bangladesh. Many social norms and expectations regarding sexual conduct stem from the concept of an ‘ideal marriage,’ in which a virgin woman enters the extended family of an older and economically established man. In this context, increased social mixing of young women and men, as a result of co-education at the tertiary level, and the trend towards delayed marriage are new phenomena. The combined effects of education, modenisation, global media, and gender advances are gradually changing expectations of male-female relations and are starting to exert a profound impact on sexual behaviour among unmarried young people.
Many young people secretly evade parental and social restrictions, but not at the cost of jeopardising a woman’s reputation and thus her marriage prospects. Contradictions between attitudes toward sexual intercourse and practice emerged as a major characteristic of their sexual conduct.
Young people exhibit a striking lack of awareness of their personal sexual health risks and safer sex practices. While at present the majority are not at risk, a small subgroup face a high risk of negative sexual health consequences, specifically some young men, who have unprotected sexual intercourse both with sex workers and with romantic partners and abuse drugs at the same time.
Lazeena Muna works on population health issues with especial attention to reproductive and sexual health. She has conducted extensive research and published internationally. She was awarded her PhD from London University in November 2003. She is currently working on issues related to prevention of HIV and AIDS for a UN organisation in Bangladesh.