Forced sex among young people

Export Indicator

The proportion of young people who were forced to have sex during the preceding 12 months.
What it measures

Sex should take place only between entirely willing partners. Forcing a person to have sex may have a number of negative consequences, ranging from physical and psychological traumas to unwanted pregnancy and HIV infection. This indicator attempts to measure the proportion of respondents who have experienced forced sex. These data are important in enabling programme managers to know who is being forced to have sex, so that programmes and interventions can be appropriately targeted and monitored.


The number of respondents aged 15-24 years who report having been forced to have sex in the preceding 12 months.


The number of respondents aged 15-24 years.

Method of measurement

The reality of sexual violence is difficult to capture in a household survey. However, if interviewers are well trained, questions are well thought out and interviews are conducted in a private setting, information on sexual violence can provide valuable information for understanding the spread of HIV in a country. A useful review of the issues around the measurement of sexual violence is available from the World Health Organization. The indicator can be collected by asking all respondents “In the last 12 months has any sexual partner forced you to have sexual relations against your will?” The question should be put to all persons aged 15-24 in order to ensure that respondents have not erroneously reported never having sex because they were not including forced sex in their replies. This indicator should be presented as separate percentages for males and females in the age groups 15–19, 20–24 and 15–24 years.

Measurement frequency

Age group: 15 years - 19 years, 15 years - 24 years, 20 years - 24 years

Education: N/A

Gender: Male, Female

Geographic location: N/A

Pregnancy status: N/A

Sector: N/A

Target: N/A

Time period: N/A

Type of orphan: N/A

Vulnerability status: N/A

Explanation of the numerator
Explanation of the denominator
Strengths and weaknesses

This indicator may be especially subject to reporting bias, and the extent to which people are willing to admit having been forced to have sex is likely to vary greatly both within and between countries. What is considered to be “forced sex” is likely to vary between settings. Because there has only been limited experience of asking such questions in household surveys, pilot-testing in countries is critical. For example, a survey in South Africa revealed that a high proportion of boys reported that they had been forced to have sex. An examination of the findings, however, suggested that respondents may have interpreted peer pressure from male friends to have sex as forced sex (A. Pettifor, personal communication). It may be desirable to add a question on the proportion of respondents who have ever been forced to have sex and to tabulate the results. This could provide additional information on forced sex that occurred to respondents as younger children.

Further information

Additional information on defining and conducting research on forced sex in developing countries can be found at: