No later than 30 September 2012

Contributors from the African continent and other developing countries are invited to write on the topic above – addressing the theme of Sex, Gender & Childhood – from either a research or an activism perspective. Abstracts and contributions must be written in English and in a style accessible to a wide audience.  Please submit abstracts to or

Conceptual Rationale:

Childhood is generally perceived as a time of innocence and becoming. This particular construction is frequently attributed to Western discourse and in particular to Rousseau’s eighteenth century exploration of childhood in his book about Emile. This discourse tends to persist and has solidified into an international body of rights for children which inform the policies and laws relating to children. Certainly here childhood is constructed in opposition to adulthood. If adults labour, there are laws that disallow children to be labourers. Moreover, childhood as a period of innocence is construed largely as outside of sexuality and violence – these being associated with adulthood.

However, childhood has not been understood in this way always and in all places.  Children have been viewed as essential to the economy of the household in many places in the world and at different periods. Certainly there is an inherent contradiction in viewing childhood and adulthood as distinct for children are being constantly socialized, or ‘disciplined’ in Foucault’s terms, in order to become particular kinds of adults. This occurs particularly along the dividing lines of sex and gender. In addition, the neoliberal restructuring of childhood is argued to have driven commercialization and commodification much deeper into the daily lives of children with increased fashion consciousness and the colonization of the play world. Consequently ‘childhood’ has retained and deepened its status as a space of difference to adulthood through the increasing specialization and diversification of ‘goodies’ made for children – once again divided along gender lines but which are associated with a view of a future gendered and sexualized adulthood.  Arguably, girls tend to be more sexualized as the commodities include clothing, consumer products and slogans that propose and validate a way of being sexual – being ‘hot’. For boys different scripts are privileged, one of these being associated with violence and resolving challenges through the use of violence

Simultaneously, sexuality as an intrinsic aspect of children’s lives is disavowed. There is a general denial of children’s desire as sexual which is accompanied by wide refusal to discuss sex and sexuality between generations because of a sense of its inappropriateness or embarrassment, etc. Such a sense of discomfort has been identified by and among teachers too who are mandated to deal with sexuality education.

While childhood might be construed as a time of innocence, the reality of children’s lives is certainly very different in many Southern African locations. There are statistics that indicate a surprisingly early onset of sexual activity and also that as many as 1 in 3 first sexual encounters are coerced, often by older men who clearly see young girls then as sexual. In addition, there is a shocking degree of violence and misogyny as is evident in the reports of young teens, who are themselves minors, taking part in gang rape and group sex, where the girls are sometimes judged to engage consensually. Then, of course, there is the practice of recording such sexual encounters on mobile phones to share with others. These behaviours are popularly met with judgmental attitudes around sexually active children. Sexually active young people are either considered promiscuous or they are responded to with pity as it is assumed they (the child) must have been abused by an adult. Issues of desire are often not considered in such responses. These responses also tend to be gendered, with sexually active girls being considered as sluts or little Lolitas, while boys remain asexual and innocent for longer, or when sexually active, being viewed as manly or just ‘being boys’.

Faced with the contradictions of viewing children as asexual in spite of the evidence to the contrary and in the light of the anxiety expressed about sexual behaviours, it might be anticipated that there would be a reasonable body of research relating to children, sex and sexuality. In spite of a considerable body of research relating to gender and children, there is a dearth of research relating to children and sexuality. Reasons for this reluctance to engage with research on children and sexuality might be linked to the discomfort in dealing with sex and children mentioned above. It is also undoubtedly linked to issues of ethics for ethics boards are both nervous and cautious in dealing with such topics. In addition there is the concern with perhaps introducing children to sexual ideas that they might not yet have entertained.

This edition of Agenda is mindful then of childhood as a construct and is concerned to begin to address the question of researching around sex and sexuality of girls and boys. It is interested in conceptual papers and accounts of empirical work. The latter could include memory work relating to childhood and sexuality. In addition we would welcome papers that reflect on working around the challenges of researching childhood and sexuality. Papers that use visual methodologies (including photo essays) would similarly be welcomed.


American Psychological Association – Task force on the sexualization of girls. “Report of the Apa Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.”WashingtonDC: American Psychological Association, 2007.

Buckingham, David, and S Bragg. Young People, Sex and the Media. The Facts of Life?London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Vol. 2. Harmondsworth: Viking, 1986.

Prinsloo, Jeanne. “Media, Youth and Sex in the Time of Hiv. A South African Story.” Journal of media and children 1, no. 1 (2007): 25-34.

Walkerdine, Valerie. “Violent Boys and Precocious Girls: Regulating Childhood at the End of the Millenium.” Contemporary issues in early childhood 1, no. 1 (1999): 3-23.


Submission Guidelines for Agenda Journal

The following guidelines are intended to assist authors in preparing their contributions.



Agenda invites contributions from feminist and gender scholars, activists, researchers, policy makers, professionals, educators, community workers, students and members of women’s organizations and organizations interested in and concerned with gender issues.

Submissions should contribute to developing new thinking and fresh debate on women’s rights and gender equality inAfricaand other developing countries.


Writers need to:

  • Write in an accessible and understandable style;
  • Inform, educate or raise debate;
  • Try to pin down reasons for contradictions and point out differences of opinion;
  • Provide an analysis and an argument;
  • Be logical;
  • Be sensitive to but not uncritical of how gender, class and race affect the reporting of an event;
  • Ensure the introduction encapsulates the contents of the piece and that it attracts the reader’s attention by either making a controversial statement, providing a thought-provoking or new insight into the subject;
  • Utilize a gender or feminist lens


We publish articles in various formats, which range from 6,000 words for more theorized articles, which form the main reference pieces in an issue, to shorter pieces with a minimum of 1,500 words.


Formats of Contributions

  • Article (6 000 words max) should be based on new research and contain analysis and argument.
  • Briefing is an adaptable format for writers to write on a wide range of subjects (2 500 – 4 000 words)
  • Focus examines an aspect of a chosen theme in detail (4 500 words max)
  • Profile looks in detail at an organisation, project or legislation, or a person (2 500 – 3 500 words)
  • Report-back covers reports on meetings, conferences workshops etc
  • (1 500 – 4 000 words)
  • Review typically reviews books or films (1 500 – 3 000 words)
  • Interview can record a conversation among a group of people or a one-on-one interview in which the writer asks the interviewee/s questions on a subject (1 500 – 3 000 words)
  • Open Forum is a vehicle for debate and argument, or pieces which deal with argument and difference of opinion on a subject/issue (2 500 – 4 000 words)
  • Perspective is an adaptable format in which writers are able to use a more personal reflective, narrative style (1 500 – 3 000 words)


Contributions should be submitted in the following format:

File type:         Microsoft Word

Font:                Arial

Size:                 10 pt

Line spacing:   single

Justification:    left

Referencing:   Harvard style


All submissions should have the following:

Abstract:          200 – 300 words

Keywords:        approx 5 keywords

Bio:                  100 – word author biography, including email address

Bio picture:     head-and-shoulders photo in 300 dpi jpeg format

Contributors are encouraged to provide photos and/or graphics to illustrate their submission


Selection and Editing Process

All submissions are peer reviewed. Articles, briefing and focus pieces go through a double blind peer review process, while all other contributions are reviewed by at least one member of Agenda’s Editorial Advisory Group.


Reviewers comment on the suitability of a text for publication in the Agenda journal, as well as provide comments to help develop the piece further for publication if required. Contributors will be asked to rework the paper accordingly.


On resubmission, the piece will be assessed by the Agenda editor and a final decision made regarding its publication in the journal.


Please note that Agenda reserves the right to edit contributions with regard to length and accessibility or reject contributions that are not suitable or of poor standard.


Agenda also invites the submission of poems on the topic of women’s rights and gender.


Please note, as per Agenda’s policy, writers who have published within the last two years WILL NOT BE ALLOWED to publish – to allow new writers to publish for Agenda.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap