The third DREAMS study took a qualitative approach, using
in-depth interviews with 94 men in Uganda. The study was done in a mix of rural
and urban sites in three geographically and culturally diverse districts. As
well as recruiting at community venues where men and younger women met, adolescent
girls and young women were asked to refer their male partners to the study. The
latter approach was expected to identify men in more stable partnerships.
The respondents had a different profile to the other two
studies. While the mean age was 28, interviewees were up to 45 years of age,
80% of respondents were married or cohabiting, and 94% were employed.
Multiple sexual partnerships were seen as a very common
practice, as one man described:
“These days most men
have more than one woman, most men say that you can’t keep eating one type of
food all the time. In fact you can’t find a man with only one woman, it isn’t
Men often sought to develop ‘side’ relationships. They were
seen as additional long-term partners whom the man would provide for
economically. Many men referred to them as ‘wives’.
“She is not at my home
she is in a rental but it’s me who pays her rent, it’s me who is taking care of
her in everything even though she is not at my place she still is like my wife
When men did not have an additional partner, it was often
because of the cost of doing so. They might however have short-term casual partners
who they would meet at drinking establishments. These relationships were
nearly always transactional in nature, usually starting with the man buying the
girl or woman drinks, a meal or low-cost items like mobile phone credit.
Some interviewees explicitly described a preference for
younger partners. As this 31 year old described, they could be more easily controlled:
“If you get a woman who is your age mate,
somehow these women tend not to be submissive… yet for a young girl, because of
the age difference, she will find it very easy to listen to you, she will treat
you with respect because she knows you are older than her and perhaps more
Men described a pattern of establishing relationships with younger
females. Most men had married in their early twenties, usually to a woman three
to five years younger than themselves, and generally saw marriage as an
important life event. Within a few years after marrying, however, many men
described taking on one or more side partners. This might occur during a period
of separation from the first wife due to a conflict or residential relocation.
As men got older, they might also have a series of
short-term casual partnerships, almost always with adolescent girls and young
women. A few of these might develop into longer term ‘side’ relationships.
The researchers comment that these complex and fluid patterns — including temporary separations of long-term partnerships, ‘side’ partnerships
being initiated and casual partnerships sometimes becoming more formalised — will complicate public health strategies to reach these men.