Sexuality violence and vulnerability in the state system for young offenders in Sao Paulo Brazil

Yankah, E; (2009) Sexuality violence and vulnerability in the state system for young offenders in Sao Paulo Brazil. PhD thesis, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. DOI:

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A situation analysis of policies and practices related to sexuality was conducted in the state system for young offenders in Sao Paulo (FEBEM-SP) from October 2005 until February 2006. Using quantitative and qualitative research methods three separate but interlinking research studies explored aspects of sexuality and vulnerability in young people, the capacity of FEBEM-SP staff members in residential institutions to respond to aspects of sexuality and vulnerability and lastly the ideology and functioning of FEBEMSP itself. The research study was a collaborative effort between the London School of Hygiene (LSHTM), the University of Sao Paulo (USP) and the Population Council Brazil. A comprehensive literature review revealed a dearth of research on the sexual vulnerability of young people under the care of FEBEM-SP or other similar institutions. Furthermore, no previous research among this population has attempted to link the vulnerabilities of service users, service providers and the institution. These research gaps highlight the importance of this research and its findings. The results from this study indicate that the young men who participated in the study were highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Access to sexual and reproductive health services were severely constrained especially in residential institutions. The majority of young men were sexually active and reported high numbers of life time sexual partners and inconsistent condom use. Violence emerged as the major aspect of vulnerability in young men's lives. Racial discrimination emerged as another important aspect. The young men interviewed experienced violence in all spheres of their lives: in their homes, in their communities (school or FEBEM-SP) and in the street. At the time, FEBEMSP residential institutions were plagued by major security concerns including frequent rebellions and uprisings. Young men and FEBEM-SP staff were both victims and perpetrators of violence. In residential institutions there were reports of clandestine sexual activity (including sexual violence) with fellow residents, visitors and staff members. There was a taboo surrounding sexual violence. Constrained by an institutional policy of "no sex, no condoms", staff members felt unable to respond to young men's sexual and reproductive health needs. Staff members felt that their own needs for safety at the workplace were not met. Steps need to be taken to change the institutional ethos. However, the author recommends against the creation of institutional STI prevention programmes given the lack of institutional support and capacity for previous efforts. The author strongly recommends the implementation of a swift transition of young people from residential FEBEM-SP institutions to the probation system where they will have easier access to education, social assistance, leisure programmes and the municipal health services provided by the City of Sao Paulo.

Item Type: Thesis
Thesis Type: Doctoral
Thesis Name: PhD
Contributors: Ross, DA (Thesis advisor);
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