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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Studies in Comparative International Development
Title Sexy Orphans and Sugar Daddies: the Sexual and Moral Politics of Aid for AIDS in Botswana
Volume 50
Issue 4
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers 519-538
URL http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12116-015-9195-1
As the specter of HIV looms in the background, Botswana’s industry of
orphan-focused aid interventions reflects deep-seated anxieties about girls’ bodies,
health, sexuality, and morality. As foreign NGO staff lament Bpatriarchal^ norms that
supposedly leave orphaned girls culturally and economically ill-equipped to refuse
advances from older men, these organizations seek new ways to liberate orphans from
underage sexual relationships. I trace how one NGO attempted to render sugar daddies
unnecessary by directly giving girls the gifts a boyfriend would provide, drawing on
human rights and empowerment discourses. However, many orphans began to appropriate
these NGO resources in order to attract even wealthier boyfriends, aggressively
pursuing age-unequal relationships using the very tools the NGO provided to fight
them. While tales of failed intervention are commonly represented in development
studies as evidence of either Bculture clash^ between foreign aid and local customs, or
as the Bunintended consequences^ of aid, this article argues that such explanations fail
to address the competing and coalescing moralities that motivated the girls’ behavior.
By recognizing their actions as efforts to manipulate multiple moral codes that are at
play during the HIV epidemic, I suggest that we may reach a better grasp of the inner
lives of aid’s targets and gain fresh perspectives on the intimate sociopolitical effects of

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