When the state polices lovers: sexualized citizenship, forced separation and confinement of minors in Freetown, Sierra Leone
Paper short abstract:
Based on fieldwork in and outside of prison in Freetown, this paper analyses how the policing of the relationships of minors and their reactions creates sexualized and confined citizenship. It analyses confinement, not as a site, but a state of being; of conflicted state-citizen relations.
Paper long abstract:
Sierra Leone passed a Sexual Offences Act in 2012 which raised the age for sexual consent to 18 officially to prevent rape. However, because the Act criminalises all sexual relationships with minors, it rendered previously legal relationships unlawful. The state now issues prison sentences of up to 15 years to boys for sleeping with underage girlfriends, forcefully separating young couples. Based on fieldwork in and outside of prison in Freetown, this paper analyses how this policing of relationships and the reactions of affected couples creates sexualized and confined citizenship. It concentrates first on boys who have been incarcerated for sleeping with underage girlfriends and shows how these boys experience practices of necropolitics (Mbembe), leading to the disassociation of punishment and wrongdoing and to the annihilation of self and agency at the hands of the state (Guenther 1971; Le Marcis 2017) which performs these prisoners out of existence as there are officially no minors in Pademba Road prison. Secondly, it follows their girlfriends who experience both forced mobility and restrictions thereof as they are excluded from schools when visibly pregnant (Thomas 2007) and can, if at all, only rarely see their imprisoned partners. Through analysing legal and substantive forms of state practices and showing how the state and citizens shape each other through effects on their bodies, practices and personhood, the paper argues for an understanding of confinement, not as a site, but a state of being; a result of imposed sexualized citizenship and a discursive practice of conflicted state-citizen relations.
Confinement as a category of practice and a category of analysis [Anthropology of Confinement Network]