Unveiling ‘Hookup’: A Gen Z Rebrand of Prostitution and Its Link to Sex Trafficking in Ghana duplicate

I just finished watching the latest episode of the excellent SavSig TV Young Voices Forum https://bit.ly/3NaKUW6 Savana Signatures discussing the expanding phenomenon of hook-up in Ghana. The conversation weaves around the definition of hook-up – whether it’s casual fun or just plain prostitution – an exchange of sexual activity for material or other gains.

From informal interviews carried out by The Hope Education Project, Ghana there is no doubt that the hook-up phenomenon, overwhelmingly female, is widely prevalent in Ghana. Hook-up could be seen as a Gen Z re-branding of prostitution where the female has agency over the activity and is, from our respondents, even able to network amongst her male friends. No one in HEP’s small cohort reported doing hook-up for fun which makes sense as sex just for fun is called casual sex.

Hook-up or prostitution is increasingly prevalent where Gen Z congregates, in and around university campuses. So-called “movie houses” have started to spring up in close proximity to campuses to accommodate the rise in demand for safe meeting spaces. As prostitution is illegal in Ghana, these movie houses provide short-term rentals of rooms containing just a TV and sofa where you can, in theory at least, watch a movie in private.
A 2021 study by Gbagbo and Gbagbo published in BMC Women’s Health “Commercial sex work among university students: a case study of four public universities in Ghana” found that the practice was overwhelmingly carried out by female Nigerian students and overwhelmingly for monetary gain. The survey found that Nigerians accounted for 63% of students active in prostitution whereas Ghanaians, in the main motivated by the need to pay fees and accommodation, only made up 19% of the cohort.
Driven by low wages or unemployment, HEP found transactional sex was a source of income for young women as a way to support themselves. This is a nice segue into the 2020 IOM report, “Internal And Cross-Border Adult Sex Trafficking In Ghana” which found that the profile of an adult female victim of sex trafficking was 25 years old with two children, 58% of whom had completed their education to JHS level and entered sex work through economic necessity.
So it’s not hard to conclude that hook-up, despite its social rebranding edging the practice of prostitution into accepted behaviour and its intersection with female bodily autonomy and agency, could realistically be a pathway into sex trafficking.