Intimate strangers: Eritrean male asylum seekers’ perceptions of marriage and sexuality

Lior Birger*, Einat Peled

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined perceptions of marriage and sexuality among male asylum seekers from Eritrea. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 14 men living in Israel. Their perceptions of marriage and sexuality were found to be influenced by their life as asylum seekers, and particularly by their encounter with a different culture, by their lack of legal status, and by the marked numerical imbalance between women and men within their community. Changes in their perceptions occurred after their arrival in Israel, and included greater relaxing of social codes and the transition from a relatively ‘closed’ sexual mindset to a more ‘open’ one. It is important to understand how lack of status affects male asylum seekers’ intimate relationships with women, and to recognise such men as subjects with legitimate sexual and partnering needs, thereby broadening existing discourse in this field, which tends to present male asylum seekers primarily as sources of cheap labour and as sexual Others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1360-1373
Number of pages14
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2 Dec 2017


  • Eritrea
  • Israel
  • Refugees
  • asylum seekers
  • intimate relationships
  • marriage
  • sexuality


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