Publications & Reports

Sex, Sexuality, and Intimate Relationships Among Afghan Women and Men of Refugee Background Living in Melbourne, Australia: Experiences, Opportunities, and Transcultural Tensions.

Russo A, Lewis B, Ali R, Abed A, Russell G, Luchters S
Burnet Institute, 85 Commercial Road, Melbourne, VIC, 3004, Australia. [email protected]


Over the last two decades, Afghanistan has been a leading country of origin for asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Australia. It is widely recognized that humanitarian migrants experience poorer sexual and reproductive health than the broader population. In turn, a body of research has emerged exploring the sexual and reproductive health of the local Afghan community. However, this has predominantly focused on youth or perinatal experiences, and less attention has been given to the broader relational and social dimensions of sexuality. Accordingly, this research aimed to explore the perspectives and experiences of married Afghan women and men as they navigate and negotiate sex, sexuality, and intimate relationships following settlement in Melbourne, Australia. A total of 57 Afghan women and men participated in six focus group discussions and 20 semi-structured interviews. Male participants described the ways that having increased access to sex and sexually explicit materials in Australia is creating opportunities for them to establish more fulfilling sex lives. Many women also described a growing awareness of sexuality, although often expressed difficulty prioritizing and claiming more pleasurable sexual encounters for themselves. However, concerns about sexual freedom are also creating new challenges for the Afghan community living in Australia in relation to sex and relationships. For example, men expressed fears about women exercising sexual liberties outside of the home, and this appeared to place women’s everyday behavior under increased scrutiny. Women also voiced concerns about how easily men can access sex outside of marriage within Australia, and described how this amplified their sense of obligation to be sexually compliant and meet their husband’s desires. This study provides new insights into the ways that Afghan community members are moving between societies, and how their understandings of sexual participation, pleasure, desire, health, consent, and capacity for self-determination are being challenged, reshaped, and reconstructed throughout this process.

Link to publisher’s web site


  • Journal: Archives of Sexual Behavior
  • Published: 01/01/2023
  • Volume: 52
  • Pagination: 177-189