Generalisation of sexual behaviour, including early sexual initiation, does not provide comprehensive knowledge of young people’s sexual attitudes, behaviours and challenges, given the high sociocultural diversity and economic inequalities within countries. This study examines geographical hotspots of early sexual initiation, at the district level in Ghana and the factors associated with the observed spatial patterns.
Data was derived from the 2017 Ghana Maternal Health Survey, covering 21,392 women aged 15–49 years. Early sexual debut denotes first sexual intercourse before attaining the legal age of sexual consent, which in Ghana, is 16 years. The Bayesian geoadditive semiparametric regression technique was used to examine geographical hotspots and correlates of the observed spatial patterns, classified into demographic, socioeconomic and pregnancy outcome factors.
The results show that 26.7% (95% CI = 26.1–27.3) of women had their first sexual intercourse before attaining the age of 16 years. Hotspots of early sexual debut was observed predominantly among districts along the mainstream of the Volta Lake, which are also reported hotspots of child trafficking, labour and slavery. Demographic, socioeconomic and pregnancy related factors were identified to be correlated with the observed spatial clustering.
Policies and interventions such as sexual and reproductive health education should target at-risk population, simultaneously addressing other child abuses perpetuating the practice.