Sex for survival: terrorism, poverty and sexual violence in north-eastern Nigeria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Emeka Thaddues Njoku
  • Joshua Akintayo

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Kent


This study advances the discourse on factors behind conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). Focusing on terrorism-affected north-eastern Nigeria, it argues that terrorism creates poor economic conditions that compel women and girls to engage in transactional sex in exchange for money, food, shelter, protection, and marriage, despite the risks of socio-legal persecutions. This further intensifies the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual violation by security force personnel and aid workers who may exploit their positions of relative power. Furthermore, the lax government response to the rise of CRSV, partly arising from this trade in sex, has contributed to its growth. Thus, this study builds on the debate regarding the motivations behind CRSV. It advances the sex economy framework building on Elisabeth Wood’s discussion of the ‘toleration’ of sexual violence. This pattern of CRSV also has implications for the state’s capacity to access intelligence for the purpose of curbing terrorism.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-303
Number of pages19
JournalSouth African Journal of International Affairs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2021


  • Boko Haram, conflict-related sexual violence Islamic State of West African Province, gender-based violence, terrorism, transactional sex, food-for-sex