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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 57  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 84-91  

Sexual behavior among unmarried business process outsourcing employees in Chennai: Gender differences and correlates associated with It


1 Project Director, AIDS Prevention and Control Project, Chennai, India
2 Senior Research Fellow, AIDS Prevention and Control Project, Chennai, India
3 Program Manager, Research- AIDS Prevention and Control Project, Chennai, India
4 Project Director, CHARTERED-Voluntary Health Services, Chennai, India

Date of Web Publication15-Jul-2013

Correspondence Address:
Saumya Rastogi
Senior Research Fellow, AIDS Prevention and Control Project, Voluntary Health Services, Rajiv Gandhi Road, T.T.T.I. Post Adyar, Chennai - 600 113, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0019-557X.114989

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   Abstract 

Background: Premarital sex is often associated with high risk sexual behavior such as early age of initiation, multiple partners and inconsistent condom use. Evidence shows that such sexual behavior pre-disposes to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. Objectives: This paper tried to investigate the correlates of premarital sexual behavior among male and female business process outsourcing (BPO) employees to highlight the gender differences that exist in relation to it. Materials and Methods: Data were collected from 526 unmarried BPO employees during behavioral surveillance survey in Chennai, in the year 2009. Results: The results showed that about one-third of respondents (males - 39.6%, females - 26.1%) had experienced premarital sex. Men reported having had their first sexual intercourse at 12 years and women at 16 years of age. While the prevalence of premarital sex was found to be high, the percentage using a condom during last sex was also high, especially, among the female employees (82.4%). Logistic regression showed that monthly individual income, work in shifts, migration, peer influence and friends with previous sexual experience were significant predictors of premarital sex among the male BPO employees. Visit to night clubs was significantly associated with a higher prevalence of premarital sex among the female employees. Conclusions: The study concludes that there is a significant gender dimension in the premarital sexual behavior among the BPO employees and that even as the sexual behavior of the young people is transitioning; their ability to negotiate safe sex behavior is also increasing. It is recommended to enhance efforts to advocate safe sex behavior among young adults employed in the BPO industry.

Keywords: Business process outsourcing employees, Correlates, Formal sector, Gender difference, Premarital sex


How to cite this article:
Charles B, Rastogi S, Sam AE, Williams JD, Kandasamy A. Sexual behavior among unmarried business process outsourcing employees in Chennai: Gender differences and correlates associated with It. Indian J Public Health 2013;57:84-91

How to cite this URL:
Charles B, Rastogi S, Sam AE, Williams JD, Kandasamy A. Sexual behavior among unmarried business process outsourcing employees in Chennai: Gender differences and correlates associated with It. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2013 [cited 2019 Dec 8];57:84-91. Available from: http://www.ijph.in/text.asp?2013/57/2/84/114989


   Introduction Top


Increased focus on sexual-behavioral research has thrown light on the prevalence of premarital sex across different socio-economic strata and age groups in India. [1],[2],[3] The current prevalence of premarital sex in India is estimated to be 14% in males and 1% in females. [4] Several independent studies to substantiate a gender difference in relation to the prevalence of premarital sex in India. [3],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9] A possible reason for this variation could be that women are more likely to under-report premarital sexual activity due to the restrictive societal norms against them in India. [3] This gender difference holds true even for the age at initiation into premarital sex. It is estimated that in India, 11% of males as compared to 5% of females had initiated premarital sexual activity before the age of 20. [10]

Since significant gender differences have been found to be present with respect to prevalence and age of initiation of premarital sex in the available literature, it is hypothesized that a gender difference would also exist in relation to the correlates of premarital sex. A few studies have corroborated this assumption. [7],[11] Several studies performed in India show that age, educational attainment, employment, income, living in rural areas, living away from parents, frequent interaction with peers, peers' sexual behavior, attitude toward sex, watching pornographic films and violence from parents were significant predictors of premarital sexual activity. [3],[7],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16] Furthermore, individuals indulging in smoking, alcohol and drugs had a higher pre-disposition for involving in premarital sex. [7],[11],[12],[14],[15],[17] One of the predictors of premarital sex - 'level of sexual health knowledge' has been inconsistently associated with it. In a few studies, it has been found to be positively associated [11],[16] with premarital sex and in another study the association is negative. [12]

Premarital sex often involves multiple partners. [1] To add to it, the early age of initiation and inconsistent use of condom may result in unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections including HIV. [1],[13] While the prevalence of premarital sex is on a rise in India, studies suggest that it is hardly practiced safely. Reportedly, only 4% of unmarried women have ever used a condom during sex in India. [4] In Tamil Nadu, 97.5% of unmarried men and 65.2% of unmarried women knew about condoms. [19] Various research studies have also concluded that a vast majority of youngsters practice unsafe sex. [11],[20] The study performed in a Gurgaon business process outsourcing (BPO) industry found that in spite of the participants being educated; they lacked in-depth knowledge of sexual and reproductive health issues. [9]

Only a very few studies have been performed to assess the sexual behavior of unmarried population employed in the formal sector. A high prevalence of premarital sex was reported among the unmarried male knit workers in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu and the BPO employees in Gurgaon, Haryana. [9],[16] According to the National Association of Software and Services Companies, the BPO industry in Tamil Nadu is fast growing and catching up with the other states such as Delhi, Maharashtra and Karnataka. [18] In addition to employment and monetary opportunities that are presented by the BPO sector to the youth, they are also faced with various tradeoffs such as risky sexual behavior and substance abuse. [9] A study performed among the unmarried BPO employees in Gurgaon reveals that 47.7% of males and 34.6% of females reported having had sexual relations. Nearly, half of the BPO employees reported having had sex with their work colleagues and only 35% males and 33% females reported having used condom during the first sex. There was a significant association between living away from parents and involvement in premarital sex among these employees. [9]

It is in this light, the present study attempts to determine the prevalence and determinants of the premarital sexual behavior among the BPO employees in Chennai. The paper also seeks to examine the correlates of premarital sexual behavior separately for men and women. It is hoped that knowledge of the gender differences in premarital sex would help to devise awareness strategies specific to each group.


   Materials and Methods Top


The data for the present study have been drawn from the 12 th wave of the behavioral surveillance survey (BSS) carried out in the year 2009 in Tamil Nadu State by the AIDS prevention and control project, voluntary health services, India.

The methodology for the BSS for BPO employees followed the following steps. A sample frame of BPO companies in Chennai was created with the help of the list on the internet and the "just-dial" service. It was decided to recruit the sample from 6 to 7 major information technology (IT) hubs present in Chennai. Snowball sampling was decided to be adopted for recruitment as any probability sampling technique was not possible due to refusal from the BPO companies for conducting surveys in their offices' premises. BPO employees working in the premises of the IT hubs were intercepted at the bus-stops close to their campuses. The inclusion criterion for the study respondents was that "they should have been working in the current BPO company for at least 2 years and should have been unmarried at the time of the survey." After explaining the purpose of the study and obtaining their consent, employees were enquired about their convenient time and place for the interview and the questionnaires were administered. The respondents were requested to give leads and contacts of the possible recruits who worked in the BPO industry and further interviews were conducted. Data from a total of 526 unmarried BPO employees (males [M] - 288, females [F] - 238) could be collected through this method. Thus, the final sample size provided us with a precision/margin of error of ± 4.3% at 95% confidence interval (CI).

The covariates, which were chosen for the analyses in the study were either logically found to be bearing a relationship with the prevalence of premarital sex or because they were included in the available literature of similar kind. [3],[7],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16] Therefore, a total of twelve selected variables, including socio-demographic, environmental, life-style, awareness of STIs and attitude toward premarital sex were considered as the explanatory variables in the present study. These were: age in years (≤23, 24-25, 26-27, ≥28), level of education (undergraduate and below, graduate and above), monthly personal income in rupees (≤15,000, >15,000), migration (non-migrant, migrant-defined as someone who was not a permanent resident of Chennai and lived in Chennai because of work), living status (with parents/relatives, away from parents/relatives), ever been to night clubs (no, yes), consumption of alcohol in the last 1 year (no, yes), ever watched a pornographic film (no, yes), friends with sexual experience (no, yes), importance of abstinence before marriage (very important, important, not important) and awareness of STIs/heard of STIs (no, yes). The dependent or the target variable in the present study was the ever involvement of the unmarried BPO employees in premarital sexual activities (yes, no). "Sexual activities" here strictly referred to sexual intercourse and did not include other sexual activities such as kissing, touching and hugging etc. Given the sensitive nature of the research study, a close-ended questionnaire was administered to the respondents to ensure privacy to them.

Descriptive statistics were carried out as part of the preliminary analysis. Multivariate binary logistic regression model using the "enter" method was employed to calculate the pure effect of the background variables on the prevalence of the premarital sexual activities. [21] SPSS 17.0 Statistical Software was used for data analyses.


   Results Top


Sample Characteristics

A majority of the sample population was aged 25 or less. Nearly, 80% of the respondents had obtained education up to graduate level or above. Personal monthly income for nearly two-third of the BPO employees was less than 15,000 Rupees. A majority of the respondents cohabited with parents/relatives (54.4%); the rest lived with friends in rented apartments or in paying-guest arrangements. It is notable that a large proportion of both male (73.3%) and female employees (60.9%) had been to night clubs, consumed alcohol in past 1 year (M - 67.4%, F - 45%) and watched pornographic films (M - 87.5%, F - 58.8%). Nearly, 55% of the male and female employees expressed that their friends were sexually experienced and about 23% did not find it important to stay away from sex before marriage. More than two-third of the male and female BPO employees (68.1%) were aware of STIs.

Prevalence of Premarital Sexual Activities

The [Figure 1] shows the percentage unmarried BPO employees reporting sexual experience and their condom usage. It is observed that the prevalence of premarital sex was relatively high among the BPO employees with one-third of them having experienced it (M - 39.6%, F - 26.1%). About one-fifth of the employees had experienced premarital sex in the past 12 months. Among the BPO employees who had sex in the past 12 months, the reported condom usage during the last sexual encounter among female employees was much higher (82.4%) than the male BPO employees (57.1%). It is also observed that for the male BPO employees, the mean age of initiation of premarital sex was earlier than their female counterparts. Male employees started premarital sex at the age of 12 whereas female employees tended to initiate at 16 years of age.
Figure 1: Percentage business process outsourcing employees reporting sexual experience and their reported condom usage in Chennai, India

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[Table 1] shows the prevalence of premarital sex among the BPO employees by their background characteristics in Chennai. Overall, nearly one-third of the respondents had ever indulged into premarital sex; the gender difference in the prevalence of sex prior to marriage was observed to be quite large. It was nearly 40% among males and 26% among females. The prevalence of premarital sex was found to be more among those who were educated up to undergraduate level than those who had graduated. The BPO employees who earned more (>Rs. 15,000) and those who worked in shifts were associated with a higher prevalence of premarital sexual activities among both males and females. In addition, those BPO employees who were migrants and those who were cohabiting away from parents or relatives had experienced premarital sex more than the non-migrants and then the ones living with parents or relatives. Behaviors such as attending late night parties, consuming alcohol and watching pornography were also found to be associated with premarital sexual activities among both male and the female BPO employees. Furthermore, those BPO employees, whose friends were sexually experienced, had a higher likelihood of reporting involvement in premarital sex. The respondents who considered it very important to abstain from sex before marriage were associated with a lower prevalence of premarital sex. A great gap between the prevalence of premarital sex was also observed among those employees who had heard of STIs than those who did not; former had a higher prevalence of premarital sex among them than the latter.
Table 1: Percentage of unmarried BPO employees reporting pre-marital sexual experiences by selected characteristics

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Logistic Regression Estimates of Premarital Sexual Activities

The [Table 2] presents the multivariate logistic regression estimates of the premarital sexual activities among the BPO employees. Significant gender dimension was observed in the prevalence of premarital sex; the male BPO employees as compared to the female employees had a significantly higher likelihood of indulging into premarital sexual activities (odds ratio [OR] = 1.76; 95% CI = 1.04-2.99).
Table 2: Multivariate logistic regression estimates of pre-marital sexual experience among the unmarried BPO employees

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A higher monthly personal income (OR = 2.09; 95% CI = 1.01-4.33), work in shifts (OR = 3.57; 95% CI = 1.14-11.13) and migration to Chennai (OR = 2.84; 95% CI = 1.35-5.99) were important significant predictors of premarital sexual activities among the male BPO employees only, when compared to their respective reference categories. Life-style factors such as consumption of alcohol in past 1 year and exposure to pornography were associated with a significantly higher likelihood of involvement in premarital sex among both male and female BPO employees. Among the women, an additional life-style variable-visit to the night clubs was significantly associated with a higher prevalence of premarital sexual activities (OR = 3.38; 95% CI = 1.17-9.78). Peer influence was a significant determinant of premarital sex among the male employees only (OR = 2.32; 95% CI = 1.13-4.77). Those men, whose friends were apparently sexually experienced, were significantly more likely to indulge in sex before marriage. Moreover, those male and female employees who had a liberal attitude toward premarital sex or those who did not consider it important to stay away from sex before marriage also had a significantly higher likelihood of experiencing premarital sex. Another factor, which exercised a significant influence on the prevalence of premarital sex among both male and female BPO employees was the awareness of STIs. Those BPO employees, who had heard of sexually transmitted infections, were almost 4 times more likely to experience premarital sex than those who had not.


   Discussion Top


The present paper, which aimed to explore the gender differences in the prevalence and determinants of premarital sexual activities among the BPO employees in Chennai, builds on the previous research of a similar nature and empirically fills the gaps in the knowledge about the premarital sexual behavior among the employees working in the formal sector. The findings suggest that a significant gender dimension exists with respect to the extent of premarital sexual activities among the unmarried youth employed in BPO companies in Chennai. The prevalence of premarital sex among the male employees was considerably more than their female counterparts. Furthermore, it was found that males enter into premarital sexual activities at a younger age as compared to females.

The correlates of the premarital sexual activities too differ considerably between the male and female BPO employees. Among the male employees, an association of a higher income with premarital sex goes to show that a higher disposable income may have been available to them to be able to spend for dating and outing with friends and also to be able to pay for paid sex with commercial sex workers. [11] In addition, in-migration to Chennai may have been accompanied with a concurrent increase in personal and financial freedom both of which may have led to an increase in sexual activity among the unmarried men. Other important socio-demographic factors such as age and education did not exhibit any significant association with premarital sex among either men or women. This may be because the respondents did not belong to a varied age group or to a diverse educational background, so these variables did not exhibit significant differences with respect to premarital sexual behavior.

The relationship of premarital sex with the life-style factors has been found to exist among both male and female employees. Ever having watched pornographic films, consumption of alcohol in past 1 year and the belief that abstinence before marriage is not important were predictors of premarital sex among both male and female respondents. These findings reflect the changing life-styles and beliefs of the Indian youth in the present times. Santelli et al. suggest in their study that alcohol consumption was associated with reduced condom use and multiple sexual partners among unmarried young population. [22] The relationship between alcohol use and unsafe sexual behavior can be explained by the rationale that its consumption impairs judgment skills and propriety and thus may be responsible for risky sexual behaviors. The analysis additionally shows that "going to night clubs" was found to be significantly influencing the sexual encounters among the women only, whereas among the men it did not have an effect suggesting a more acute lack of judgment among female employees as compared to their male counterparts. In order to be accepted by peers, it is usually necessary to conform to the norms within the friend circle. The influence of friends' sexual experience on the premarital sex among the male employees shows the contribution of peer pressure in shaping the young men's sexual attitudes and behavior. Few other studies too support this finding. [12],[14]

In the present study, awareness of STIs has been used as a proxy variable for knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases. With knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases, also comes the knowledge about practicing safer sex. The higher prevalence of premarital sexual activities among the male and female employees who had heard of STIs can be attributed to the fact that these individuals were more knowledgeable about the STIs and were taking enough precautions to keep them at bay and therefore, got involved in premarital sexual activities more frequently than those who did not have knowledge of STIs. While the prevalence of premarital sex was found to be high among both the male and female employees, the percentage using a condom during last sex was also high, especially among the female employees. This means that even as the sexual behavior of the young people is transitioning, their ability to negotiate safe sex behavior is also increasing.

Though, efforts were made to have a good representation of the BPO employees in Chennai city, the results from the present study should be interpreted with caution as a probability sampling technique could not be followed due to the denials from the BPO companies to conduct interviews in their premises. Snowball sampling method was employed, which seemed to be suitable in the present situation, but may not have had a high external validity. Due to this the statistical inferences from the sample to the population must be made with caution. It is recommended that further research with more rigorous design must be undertaken to explore the issues.

Despite the limitations, the present results suggest that a significant difference exists with respect to the prevalence and predictors of premarital sex among the BPO employees in Chennai. In accordance with the existing body of literature, results from the present data reveal a higher prevalence and earlier initiation of premarital sex among the male BPO employees. Results also suggest that the predictors of premarital sex among the male and female employees differ in nature. Factors such as income, work in shifts, migration, peer influence and friends with sexual experience significantly determined premarital sex only among the male employees whereas the factor, visit to night clubs exclusively influenced premarital sex among the women BPO employees. Results also showed that a substantial proportion of women practiced premarital sex safely whereas among men, this proportion was relatively lower. Based on the current results, it is recommended to enhance the efforts in the direction of advocacy of safe sex behaviors among the young adults, especially, those who are employed in the formal sector and also to identify the sexual risk behaviors specific to their industry.


   Acknowledgments Top


This study is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of the AIDS prevention and control (APAC) project and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

 
   References Top

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