Challenging Patriarchy: Trade, outward migration and the internationalization of Commercial sex among Bayang and Ejagham women in Southwest Cameroon

Ngambouk Vitalis Pemunta


This paper documents the specific local and global socio-economic forces that led to the outward migration of Bayang and Ejagham women to work as commercial sex workers on the Cameroon-Nigeria border regions in the 1980s and 1990s. It demonstrates that these women’s personal accumulation strategies are adaptative- drawing on time and space specific modes of capitalist accumulation and kinship systems of power. The intertwined nature of these forms of accumulation demonstrate that patriarchal forms of power and capitalist forms of accumulation in this region were not competitive, but rather complementary systems. This conjuncture also gave women the latitude to claim some form of sexual and economic agency, suggesting that at least in Africa, patriarchy as a power field is dynamic and relational, simultaneously opening up spaces for both resistance and agency.

The impact of sex work is disproportionate since most women of our study were involved in subsistence sex, with the risk of exposure to violence and HIV/AIDS. These women nevertheless sought to reconfigure gender relations.


Commercial sex, HIV/AIDS, capitalist accumulation,patriarchy, power, agency

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