stated: "Sex play begins well before [adolescence] but it is said that immature
girls can rarely be sufficiently aroused to submit to intercourse". Weddings
are postponed until adolescence. Thus (p182), Songhoi girls married shortly
after puberty and Bela may be married before puberty, as coitus is delayed
until sexual maturity.
[Additional refs: CRLP (2000) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Francophone
Africa. Progress Report, p133-54]
At the end of girl's initiation, girls are told by the
initiators about types of husbands, how to behave with their husband's friends,
how to secure marriage, and how to resist advances of men who might court them.
[?] relates about the institution called "woman-friend". Being liaisons hidden
from adults, the boy watches her virginity, and she prepares the meals of the
[Additional refs.: Couloubaly (1984-5)].
noted a reverse circumcision license in the Dogons
early childhood, the engaged children play together. They know nothing of the
bond which unites them; moreover, society looks upon them as "fish", beings of
no social consequence. Small children do sometimes play sexual games; they are
beaten for it if they are caught, but very little attention is actually paid to
the misdemeanor. It is after circumcision and excision that the children, who
will thereafter wear loincloths covering their sexual parts, must cease these
Another significant idea on puberty is
noted when "the only case in which the young girl has the right, indeed the
obligation, to lose her virginity to a man other than her fiancé 
is if her fiancé is absent at the time when she passes into sexual maturity.
This is so that her first menstrual period will not precede the breaking of the
hymen. […]. The husband has no right to complain of the situation, since he
brought it about by allowing himself to be absent at the critical moment"
(p363-4). As the
author points out, "[t]he Dogon express the idea of sexual maturity in two
ways: [...] "he who knows speech" and [...] "he who knows shame". Mastery of
speech and decent behaviour are prerequisites to marriage according to Dogon
rules. This is why the child's acquisition of language, particularly that of
the little girl, is supervised so carefully".
On the instruction of girls, the following
and girls spinning cotton will whisper tales to one another about men or masks
and secrets they have come upon unexpectedly. This is why it is especially
important for men not to hear. A mother, again while spinning or perhaps
cooking, will teach her daughter what she must know about marriage and sexual
relations. Here, too, are private matters that should not be overheard; A
little girl learns everything from her mother. From the time she can walk she
follows her everywhere. First she receives a practical education about
housekeeping and women's farming. At the approach of puberty and marriage this
is followed by more secret information concerning female physiology, marriage,
and childbearing. The name given to this education is "hidden speech" […] or
"speech of the bedroom" […]. The father does not involve himself in any way in
her upbringing. Later, when she goes to the "house of the old woman", the girl
receives another education called "outside speech" […], which concentrates on
the proper behavior she must show her husband and in-laws. The old woman also
offers practical advice about the initial period of marriage, but she does not
bring up such subjects as menstruation or personal hygiene except with her own
Parin et al. (1963:p46):
"Mothers are not concerned
about the sexual parts of their children and do not prevent them from playing
with these. One often sees a boy holding his sexual part in his hand. This
offends no one. When children among themselves carry on all kinds of sexual
play openly, adults will tell them that this is not done in public. Between
children of the same age or a little older, talk about sex will be quite open;
in front of adults it is considered unseemly. It is not regarded as fitting for
children to be present when parents are having sexual intercourse, because they
would be disturbing. However, nothing is concealed. Children six or seven years
old know all about sex
and will answer without embarrassment if they are asked about it. When they
grow older they will know that one should talk about it only with one's age
group, and they will be somewhat more self-conscious".
"Sexual intercourse is tried out even in
childhood. People say that this really does not matter because, of course,
there can be no offspring" (p34). About the sexual identity of circumcision
the Dogon, circumcision means the end of childhood. Yet it is only one of the steps
that must be taken to achieve the dignity of the adult. For their entrance into
social and religious life the Dogon seem to place more stress on the health and
physical development of the young than do other peoples. Here, further
circumstances decrease the importance of circumcision: Most children return to
their parents' house after the ceremony and will not move to the boys' or
girls' house until a few years later. Here they will only sleep and will return
to their parents' house for meals. The sexual importance of the initiation is
lessened by the fact that boys and girls are circumcised a few years before
sexual maturity, that even before, children already play sexually with one
another, and that sexual activity is taken seriously only when it can lead to
Although reserved for initiated
adolescents, "boys and girls sleep in their respective duñe very often before
having been initiated. […] It is likewise to be noted that though initiation
marks the moment when the adolescent is able to carry on sexual relations with
a young partner of the opposite sex, one very often finds young boys not yet
circumcised who have not waited for this time to carry on sexual relations with
young girls not yet excised themselves" (Palau Martí, 1957).
"Most marriages in Chad are customary, and the
primary objective of these marriages is to have children. In practice, the age
at the time of customary marriage for girls varies between 10 and 12 years old.
Generally, the girl's consent is not required; she is educated to submit to her
parent's decisions and those her future husband. […] Marital rape is punished
only in cases of girls under the age of 13".
Most women are being circumcised between
ages 8 and 12 (ref.
p256) or 10-15 (results, p260). "The relative focus on sexuality, whether on a
conscious or symbolic level, during the initiation period and via the
circumcision ritual remains unclear and merits further investigation. […]
[c]ircumcision is not solely about preserving women's chastity or regulating
their sexual behavior" (p262).
In Sudan off the late sixties, most
children overheard and saw parental intercourse by the nature of the small
dwellings in which they reside (Elsarrag, 1968).
Formerly, twelve was considered a suitable age for marriage (Zenkovsky, 1945),
two years after circumcision.
Pfeiffer (1963:p310): "Knaben und Mädchen haben, solange sie noch
wirklich Kinder sind, freien Umgang, und es kommt häufig zu sexuellen
Though not mentioned in the Qur'an, and
outlawed by both Islamic and Sudanese law, Pharaonic
type circumcision is said to be practised, sometimes at an age of seven days,
for the Islamic argument of "protecting female modesty and chastity" (e.g.,
It should nevertheless be observed that medieval Muslims who practised female excision
"perceived the custom as one that had religious sanction" (Berkey, 1996).
[Additional refs.: Otor, S. C. J. & Pandey, A. (1999) Adolescent
transition to coitus and premarital childbearing in Sudan: a biosocial context,
J Biosoc Sci 31,3:361-74]
found that men bought Nuba girls and sleep with them "long before
menstruation". According to Nadel (1947),
Koalib girls were betrothed at eight or nine years of age, and at twelve or thirteen
the marriage was consummated. It was said that they slept together without
having intercourse. She removed her bangles and necklaces before sleeping, but
did not remove her pubic bracelets. Her fiancée was content with petting. This
sleeping together and platonic petting of the betrothed lasted for several
years until the bridegroom, without consulting either his or her parents,
decided that his girl was sufficiently mature for consummation. There was no
waiting for first menstruation or other signs of sexual maturity but many
brides refused intercourse to her future husband until he paid the bride price
Among Otoro and Heiben communities, girls
at the age of puberty (and before, should they wish so) went to a girl's hut (kur, luru).
Nadel (ibid.): "The prospect of receiving these visits and indulging in
sexual play which forms part of courtship is indeed the acknowledged reason for
this segregation of girls. Shame forbade them to receive their lovers in the
parents' house, while in the kur they were free from all supervision". Boys of
thirteen to fifteen looked around for a bride among the eight to twelve years
old girls. They got to know one another out on the fields or at the various
dances and ceremonies that united people of different communities. When the
couple found one another they kept the arrangement private for a couple of
months. The boy visited his girl at night in the girls' hut where she slept for
chatting and sex play. The conventional
petting included squeezing the breasts, even when undeveloped, of the girl, and
what the Otoro call "petting of the pubic apron".
stated that the various groups of Nuba were divided by their attitude on intercourse
before circumcision. Men begin courting at age twenty and generally get
betrothed to a girl child,
in which case sexual intercourse awaits puberty.
"As regards the institution of the parallel
age-grades its practical value seems to be that it prepares the ground for the
first experiences of sex relations. Or rather, it aims at circumventing, and
dulling, this unsettling first experience. Enabling the sexes to meet in the
critical age, between 13 and 16, as it were on neutral ground, openly and
respectably, it tends to remove some of the secrecy and unhealthy curiosity
that is part of the mental transition from the self-contained experience of
early youth to the new awareness of the new polarity of sex" (Nadel, 1942
"Only small boys herd the cattle and milk
them, for once a boy has reached maturity there is the danger that he may have
had sexual contact […]" (Seligman and Seligman, 1932:p73).
In childhood, "[t]here is no segregation of the sexes [or kin]".
Seligman and Seligman (1928:p447):
"A man will sometimes engage to marry a child unborn if it should be a girl. If
the girl dies another girl-child may be substituted […]". "When the bride price
has been paid […] the man can have intercourse with his future wife, but only
in the father's house which the young man visits daily; this is not allowed
unless the girl has passed the age of puberty".
(1910:p215), on the Kuku: "Les enfants de sexe
différente, se recherchent très jeunes et s'essayent à mettre en pratique les
enseignements que leur a procurés leur promiscuité sur un même lit avec leurs
parents". Seligman and Seligman (1932:p299)
cite Capt. Yunis (1924) in that among the Kuku "lower incisors and canines are
removed from both sexes for "the purpose of mutual sex attraction", this being
done at ten to twelve years of age.
Play at marriage does not involve "any
physical relationship" (Deng, 1972:p64).
Children's socialisation is segregated after weaning, although "[t]here are
many things they do together, with or without significance attached to sex". No
claims are made on sexual behaviour socialisation. Courtship seems to begin in
"youth" (p86-92). The Dinka strongly object to premarital pregnancy.
Tessmann (1934b, I:p204)
did not note the "Mann-und-Frau-Spiel" in Baja
children. Instead, they play in separation and boys are noticed, when the sexes
do meet, to haunt and trash the girls. The Baja tend to regard children as
innocent (ignorant), probably much contrary to facts (1937, II:p112).
According to Paulme
the Sudanese Dogon
"child will be present at long
conversations between men, some seated on the ground against the posts of the toguna, others stretched out in the
shade of the thick layers of millet stalks which form the roof of the shelter.
The children remain very quiet there; some of them as early as the age of four
or five even seem to follow the conversation with interest and sometimes ask
their elders questions which the latter gravely answer. There is no subject of
conversation among adults which the presence of children puts a stop to
approaching freely; no one would dream of controlling his language upon seeing
at his side a little boy or little girl whom he might regard as too young to
listen to certain information. Thus the children very early acquire precise
sexual knowledge -- boys and girls of six or eight seem perfectly familiar with
these questions -- without their ever having been given any enlightenment in
this matter. The children asked about this subject all replied "that they have
always known this".
Among the Yoruba-speaking peoples, girls of
better class were almost always betrothed when children, frequently when
infants, the husband in futuro being sometimes an adult, sometimes a boy.
Virginity in the bride is only of paramount importance when the girl has been
betrothed in childhood; but many girls have lovers in secret.
Girls were often betrothed from infancy or birth (Caldwell et al., 1991:p239,
"often at five years of age" (Bascom, 1969:p61).
Marriage was often delayed until two or three years after puberty (Bascom,
1969:p64). Sources on
premarital sexuality (Caldwell et al., 1991:p243-4; Le Blanc et al., 1991:p502) are ambiguous. One 1993 study
found that for 3.6 per cent of school students, coitus was experienced at
"about ten years old" and for 36.4 per cent not until the age of 15 and 16 years.
For the majority of those who had had sexual relations, love and fun were the
most frequently provided reasons for involvement. In another study on unmarried
female trade apprentices in Ikorodu, however, the lowest age would be 11.
Yoruba mothers who would kiss her infant
below the umbiculus, would be committing incest (Staewen and Schönberg,
Traditionally, sexual education came from selected same-gender elders, often
the oldest of such persons in the village, offered at the puberty rites
With colonisation, Victorian repression condemned sex education, which was
found to be rare in association with the absence of puberty rituals (Dehemin,
Female excision was explained in terms of reducing sexual enjoyment. Virginity
was prized; elders generally married off their children soon after puberty to
avoid problems. Male children are not punished for public masturbation (LeVine,
"Up to the age of six the children
of both sexes are allowed by the parents to mix freely and to play their little
games. But from six onward there is a tendency for a girl to go with the group
of girls and for the boy to go with his. After puberty there is definite taboo,
which is rigorously enforced by the parents, against the mingling of the sexes
in public or private".
As described by Buxton (1963),
a specific courting hut (lomore) allows a free atmosphere for adolescent
[the exact age at which it is entered is not given] girls to meet boys, ten in one
hut, where "parents as a whole do not interfere with the flirtations of their
daughters. […] There may be affectionate petting- stroking and caressing- but
sexual intercourse does not take place. […] huts are not places for affairs or
"[…] the Civil Code prohibits marriage of men
under the age of 18 years and women under the age of 15 years.Early marriage, however, is pervasive
in Ethiopia, with girls often marrying at the age of 14 or younger.These marriages, generally
arranged by a couple's parents in conformity with tradition, are motivated in
part by the need to ensure a girl's virginity at the time of marriage".
Among the Ethiopian Galla, marriages are
arranged, often with betrothal at a very young age (Holcomb, 1973).
In Ethiopia, the marriage age for females is 12-15, to prevent pre-marital
Among the [Abessinier], clitoridectomy and male circumcision are performed
seven days after puberty (Bieber, 1908:p49-99).
Girls may be married from age ten upward, in which case consummation is delayed
(p54). Among the Islamic Galla, infibulation is performed at age eight to ten
(p76). Marriage of girls may be as early as age ten, boys marry at 15 (p77).
Among the [Kaffitscho], the girl's clitoris is extirpated at the age of 4
months to 1 year (p84). After menarche, as early as age nine or ten, she is
ready for marriage (p85); a premarital sex life is not considered possible.
Among the Ometi, girls marry at age 13-15, "before menarche" [although this
commonly occurs at age 12], and boys at age 14-16; circumcision and clitoral
extirpation take place before marriage (p95-6). Among the Amhara, sex education
of boys is not commonplace; girls are instructed by the mother before menarche
/ marriage (Bieber, 1911:p189-90).
Among the Galla and [Kaffitscho], mutual masturbation of boys and girls, as
well as bestiality with horses and donkeys among herd boys is common (p192,
According to a study on rural adolescent
girls in the Fitche district of Ethiopia,
it was found that, although girls learned how to do domestic tasks from their
mothers, they had little knowledge of menses or proper hygiene during
menstruation. Parents expressed little interest in educating their girls about
puberty, menses, or sexuality. Virginity is of prime importance in this
community, and girls are often circumcised. However, because girls are strictly
isolated from boys, kidnapping and rape are not uncommon.
Data suggest that ethnic groups "Adere
and the Oromo used FGM [female genital mutilation] on women aged from 4
years to puberty, and the Amhara on
the 8th day of birth. […] Women believed the practice to be fully supported by
men. Men preferred marrying women subjected to FGM, because the women would
then not be sexually overactive and unfaithful".
According to Bieber (1920, I:p269),
boys masturbate et se ipsi et inter se.
Girls practice tribadism. Bestiality is practised by older and younger boys
courtship and marriage takes place "at an early age" since no payment or gifts
are given or expected. This possibly begins when children leave the parents
home and village at puberty to go to the village of the maternal uncle, to
safeguard them from a polygamous system (Cerulli, p22, 23-4).
along with Huffman (1931:p36)
observed that children grow up within a marital paradigm.
"Sexual activities are from
their earliest manifestations given the stamp of cultural values. They are from
the first associated with marriage, which is the final goal of the sex life of
men and women. Even the very poor and the disabled form domestic establishments
of some kind and talk proudly of 'my father-in-law' and 'my mother-in-law'. It
is the chief ambition of a youth to marry and have a home (gol) of his own, for
when Nuer speak of marriage they speak of a home. They say of a youth: 'He is
married -- he has a gol.' Even in childhood it is clear to Nuer that marriage
and the birth of children are the ultimate purpose of the sexual functions to
which all earlier activities of a sexual kind-play, love-making, and
courtship-are a prelude, a preparation, and a means.
long as there is no erotic behaviour in public, no inhibitions attach to sexual
interests and their expression, and no one tries to hide from children the
facts of sexual life, which they can learn by observing their elders and the
flocks and herds among which childhood is spent. A boy who is seen by his
elders in sexual play with a girl of his own age will merely be told not to act
as though be had been initiated -- he can do what he likes then -- and at the
most might receive a cut with a grass switch. No one considers his conduct
immoral, and the older people will joke about such things among themselves.
Children start playing at
marriage from the time they begin to walk, at first as uncomprehending
observers of the games of older children and then as participants in them. They
make cattle byres and huts of sand, and mud oxen and cows, and with these
conduct bridewealth negotiations and perform marriage ceremonies, and they play
at domestic and conjugal life, including sometimes in the game, I was told,
imitation of coitus. In its earliest expression, therefore, sex is associated
with marriage, and the first sexual play occurs in imitation of one of the
domestic routines of married life. It occurs in response to a cultural, and not
to an instinctive, urge.
Girls and boys, the girls
rather earlier than the boys, begin to perform the simpler and lighter tasks of
household and kraal from about the age of seven. From then onwards till they
are about fourteen, marriage games continue when the children are by
themselves, and though within them sexual play begins to be indulged in for its
own sake and not merely in imitation of adult behaviour, it is subordinate to
the whole make-believe relationship of conjugality of which it forms a part.
During the rainy months the girls visit the boys in the grazing grounds,
bringing them balls of porridge as presents, which each gives to the boy she
has chosen as her 'husband'. She also milks the goats for her 'husband' and may
even bring him a gourdful of cow's milk from the kraal. The boys cut millet
stalks in the gardens and after roasting and eating the immature grain send the
sweet stalks with their outer husks removed to their 'brides'. Older boys also
send their juniors with mud oxen and cows to one of the senior girls, who plays
the part of mother-in-law. I was told that in these games sexual intercourse
may take place, but is neither a usual nor a prominent feature.
Girls witness serious
love-making and courtship earlier than boys. At dances small girls follow their
more experienced sisters and cousins, imitating their movements during the
dancing and afterwards sitting with them while the young men pay them
compliments and try to persuade them to retire with them into the long grass.
When a girl is about twelve or thirteen initiated boys begin to court her, and
when she is about fifteen or sixteen she has at least one lover and probably
one in each of the villages neighbouring her own. She passes through a
succession of love affairs, besides more casual affairs. I doubt whether any
girl in Nuerland goes to her husband a virgin".
The same was observed by MacDermott
may be strictly controlled in some ways but they have a freedom in their games
that might shock the modern world. One day I saw a boy and girl aged about
seven or eight playing at marriage in front of her elders. They disappeared to
the grass where they attempted to make love; seeing my surprise, the elders
asked: "What harm can they do? No babies will result!" ". Seligman and Seligman
"Boys and girls play at
marriage together, choosing partners and mimicking all activities, even sending
clay oxen as bride-wealth. The sexual act has its place in this play, although
it is by no means the only interest. It is, however, at this age that children
are taught the meaning of incest, and that play marriages with relatives are
not permitted, though it is not until puberty that they will learn from the
parents the full range of their relatives".
"There is a considerable amount of pre-marital
freedom. […] An unmarried girl should never have a child […]. It is only after
initiation that courtship is socially recognized as a serious matter. A girl
may be courted by several boys at the same time as long as they do not come
from the same hamlet; likewise, a lad may pay court to two or three girls"
stated that children sleep in the same room as their parents until age five to
six, with no efforts to hide parental sexuality. Children may be observed
playing at marriage including mock coitus. Girls are courted beginning at ages
twelve to thirteen, and will have a series of lovers by age fifteen to sixteen.
Males are said to practice penile self-mutilation beginning at age twelve,
which appears to be a gradual autocircumcision by causing atrophy of the
subcutaneous tissue. Contrary to Evans-Pritchard, Akalu (1989:p27)
stated that there are no observations on parents' sex life, and no questions
asked. "They seem to carry with them so many questions until they reach the age
of around 10 to 12 when they take up discussion about their interests in their
age-group". Sexual intercourse may, however, be observed in the forest or
savannah. "From their early years [children] are treated as responsible beings.
No instructions and no reprimands are given to them. The children simply and
without being told imitate the conduct of the adults. [...] imitating without
request and without approval or disapproval" (Akalu, 1985:p56).
Boys are initiated (ages 9-15) by
horizontal incisions on the forehead, girls are not. Youths have considerable
sexual freedom. The girl is nude until marriage (Beidelman, 1968).
stated that the age range of initiation was lowered for a number of reasons.
"Due to this decline in age
of the average initiate, it was not uncommon during the early 1980s for boys to
be scarified before reaching "puberty" (juel).
The fact that many newly scarified "men" had to wait for years before enjoying
the sexual privileges ritually conferred upon them at initiation while more and
more bull-boys were actively engaging in courtship and marriage further
complicated this situation. "Manhood" was increasingly considered a matter of
degree rather than a definitive status. There were numerous occasions, for
instance, in which I heard older men publicly ridicule and belittle these
pubescent wuuni as no better than
"boys" since they "still know nothing of girls". I also heard such "men"
derogatorily referred to by older men as wuuni
g[.]ri (sing., wut g[.]ri), an expression that suggested that they were men only in the
sense of bearing the marks of gaar.
Similarly, a young man could praise himself in song by declaring "I'm not
[merely] a wut g[.]ri," thereby implying that he was,
rather, a fully grown warrior, capable of assuming all the social privileges
and responsibilities appropriate to "manhood" ".
Evans-Pritchard comes to
conclusions: that there is wide sexual freedom before marriage, and that sex
life is from the beginning stamped by cultural interests. Apart from rules of
incest, adultery, and good form, there are no checks placed on the expression
of sex from its earliest manifestations. Nevertheless, even at the outset the
compass is set towards marriage and children. Simulated coitus between children
is part of a game of domestic and marital relationships. After initiation,
young men make love to girls as much as they can, but though there is much
casual intercourse it is considered rather gross, and the aim of both youths
and girls is to form attachments of the lover-sweetheart kind, in which coitus,
when it takes place at all, is only part of a more complex relationship. The
lover-sweetheart relationship has within it the purpose or pretence of
marriage. […] So strong is the cultural idea of marriage that, though devoid of
irksome restraint and inhibitions, the path of sex life runs from childhood
towards that of union and, though circuitous, leads always to marriage, home,
and family. Marriage is the end of a full sex life".
"Parents teach their sons at an early age
the rules of sex: to avoid the wives of others and those who teke mar, have kinship".
However, "[…] it is not thought that children will fall sick if they have
incestuous relations in their play 'because the children are ignorant of having
done wrong'. They know no better".
Stauder (1971:p77, 86-7)
observed that little children are considered "stupid" and unobservant in
observing marital liberties, whereas older children are made to go sleep
Afar girls used to be eligible for marriage
from their tenth year (Licata, 1885:p254).
Around 1950, Messing and Bender
([1985:p208]) note on
"When sex differentiation
becomes more emphasized in the culture, at about seven,
sex talk and sex play goes on primarily within the peer group of the same sex. The
invitation to do this is […] (lit. take this-insult). They play hide and seek,
whisper, reenact what they have observed their parents do at night in the hut,
and fantasize experimenting with sexual possibilities. Children observe much in
the quiet of the night in the hut, but are careful not to be seen watching.
They misunderstand and are greatly puzzled, since no elder will explain
"impolite matters" to them. It is impolite even to mention the names of
genitals and reproductive organs, such as k'ula for penis, and […] for vulva,
so they are merely whispered about. In church school, boys are puzzled by overt
references to "Mary's wom" and "God's seed", but questions are rejected as
"rudeness". Youngsters in town have broader information, because there they
hear "rude" talk more often among adults".
The authors ([1985:p264, 439]) further
note: "When no adults are present, boys play games imitating the sex life of
animals, sometimes highly imaginary, e.g. the "coitus of baboons"
[…]: seated and facing each other with their feet and rock back and forth. This
is largely their own mental projection of human activities, for they have all
seen actual sexual intercourse among domestic animals".
powers of observation, active, free and relatively unstructured prior to later
discipline, imitate in their play activities the social relations, including
the family and sexual-social relationships of their elders. When about five
years old, boys and girls - for the sexes are not yet separated up to that time
- play "house" with considerable sophistication. For example, when they play
"marriage", the "father" of the "bride" goes to the "elders" to inquire about
the character of the "groom", after the groom's father has initiated the
negotiations on the groom's request. They build a "marriage hut", and play at
heavy drinking of barley-beer and honey-mead. The "bride" demands a gift from
her new "husband", and enters into his "residence". After they have been in
there a while, the two best-men […], who had been duly sworn to protect her
even against her husband, go off to the bride's parents to announce loudly and
joyfully that the girl had proven a virgin! Whereupon the mize [vide infra] are
Opposing the Sinhalese,
who ritualise menarche, "[…] the Amhara female's rite of passage (which may be
formalized and public or casual and secret) is her introduction to adult
heterosexual intercourse". Sex and marriage are closely related in idiom,
premarital virginity renders marriage legitimate, and the nuptial defloration
is ceremonial (Reminick).
"The experience of the
wedding night cannot be very pleasant for the bride. For the first time in her
life she is far from the familiar setting of her parental home. She has had
little or no sexual instruction, other than the knowledge that sexual matters
are "rude" and that she is supposed to resist her husband's advances as
fiercely as possible. The groom, on the other hand, has been taught to regard the
nuptial night as a battle in which the bride must be forcibly overcome. If
somewhat anxious himself, he at least has the moral, and sometimes the
physical, support of his two or three mize.
If he is unable to accomplish the defloration, he may call in the first mize—usually a married relative or
friend with some experience—who will perform the task. When at last the bride
has been conquered, the mize take the
bloodstained cloth as proof of the girl's virginity. Their triumphant chant—ber ambar sabara-lewo, "he has broken
the silver bracelet for you" (for the bride's parents)—is the signal for
further rejoicing and revelry among the wedding guests. On the morrow groom and
friends discuss the conquest with masculine glee, and the bride remains
embarrassed and cowed".
"Still another type of
marriage is that known as […]("ten beds") in which the boy goes to
live with the girl's family while both are quite young. In this case the boy
has his work apprenticeship under the girl's father. After several years, when
the girl reaches puberty, a second wedding ceremony will take place—this time
at the home of the groom's parents—and the union will be consummated. This type
of arrangement tends to be made when the boy's family is too poor to provide enough
to get him started on his own, or if the girl's father has no son to help him
with the work".
"Young boys are not segregated. Tadassa [a 4-y-old] plays and fights with girls
as well as boys, but sexual play between them is not permitted; in older
children it is punished. After puberty, boys and girls no longer sleep
together. Boys usually gain sexual knowledge gradually from listening to
conversations of young men. Talking about sex in the house or at mixed
gatherings is considered improper".
[no data available]
In Somalia urban areas, child marriage
(sometimes at age 12) was rare; in agricultural areas, it was about age 15
A law passed on January 11th, 1975, forbids marriage of females below age 16,
and of males below 18.
"Infibulation is regularly practiced
on young girls. Ferrandi tells us that at Lugh the operation is performed at
the age of seven or eight (),
while Zoli reports that it is done at the age of twelve or thirteen by the
natives of the area beyond the Juba ()".
"There is some indication that infant
betrothal may have been common in the past, but whether this is true or not, it
is certainly not the general practice now (Lewis, 1962:p16;
According to Grassivaro and Abdisamed (1985),
the practice of female circumcision was universal in Somalia; the percentage of
circumcised women was 99.3%. Infibulation is the commonest type of circumcision
used (75.7%). The age of circumcision varies from birth to 15; the average
being 7.5. The type of circumcision does not seem to be influenced by some
environmental variables (e.g. birth place of parents or place of circumcision),
it is primarily determined by the population of the individual region.
Infibulation is accepted to the greatest extent by the pastoral populations of
the middle/northern regions, principally in Ogaden and in the 4 Somalian
regions on which it borders: Togdheer, Nugal, Muddug, Galgadud. In the southern
regions (Upper, Middle, Lower Giuba) amongst rural populations or populations
with a cattle/cultivation economy, there are also attenuated types of
circumcision: sunna and clitoridectomy (20 to 30%).
In precapitalist northern pastoral Somali, the following
"As soon as she learned to walk and talk, [a girl] was
to acquire the skills of women's work and to imitate, even in play, the child
care, matweaving, buttermaking and cooking tasks of the women of her household
and camp. From such a young age too a young girl was learned about the central
value of her sexual organs and the need to hide and protect them; the genital
operation which she underwent before she was nine or ten years drove these
points home. By the time a girl reached puberty and became nubile, she had
mastered all women's work skills. While north Islamic and customary law
prescribed that she continue to guard her virginity, she was at this age
allowed to participate in customary courtship practices, or attract a husband
and thus find her niche as a wife in a new productive and reproductive unit:
the household" (Kapteijns, 1995:p249).
The majority of girls between the ages
of 6 and 12 undergo infibulation (Abdalla, 1982:p12). Islam requires virginity
before marriage, fidelity after marriage, and seclusion of the women from the
men (p30), but since seclusion is not possible in a nomadic society, female
circumcision is seen as way of protecting women's chastity in the presence of
any man and of reducing a woman's sexual desires (p35-6).
Among all ever
sexually active single men, 33% reported that they were aged 14 or younger at
first sexual intercourse, and among all ever sexually active women, 20% did so
(Kane et al., 1993).
Among the Senegalese Serer, marriage
takes place usually shortly after puberty (Cantrelle and Leridon, 1971).
"Chez les femmes Oucloves du
Sénégal, […] [l]a cohabitation avant la venue des règles [age 11 or 12] est un acte
fréquent chez les jeunes filles, on n'y voit aucun scandale, dans la majorité
des cas […]".
[Additional refs.: Delaunay (1994);CRLP (2000) Women of the World: Laws and
Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Francophone Africa. Progress
durant la période pré-pubertaire, les enfants toucouleur sont généralement
tenus pour asexués" (Wane, 1971:p223). Children observe
parental intercourse and animals but might they imitate any act they are
immediately given a memorable correction. There is a strict obedience to
Islamic teachings. Adolescents are
permitted to play husband and wife (suka-sehil)
which is regarded as immature courtship or flirtation and does not lead to consummation
or marriage (p225).
has some notes on Senegalese sexuality in childhood. Mothers are "obsessed with
the virile potency of her infant", and eager to watch his erection. Childhood
"impotence" is though by the Serer to be caused by the spilling of milk on the
boy's penis. Enuresis
is thought to be associated with impotence. Automanipulation of the penis is
discouraged by threats of castration and circumcision. If anything, people say
it "resembles the sexual act". "Numerous informants" declared that during boy's
circumcision the first sexual interactions are had.
est très vite en contact avec la vie sexuelle de l'adulte, la promiscuité étant
très grande. On considère ici que l'enfant de 5 ans a pris connaissance de
l'acte sexuele, et qu'il essaye d'imiter les grands en invitant une petite
amie. Situation que nous avons pu d'ailleurs observer plusieurs fois. De
nombreux billets circulent entre élèves de 8 à 12 ans, invitant à accomplir
l'acte sexuel, dessins très précis à l'appui".
17.6% of men and 7.4% of women had their
first sexual experience between ages five and ten (p360). 19.6% of men and none
of females would have learned about impotence between ages five to ten (p346f),
generally from age mates. A strict rule forbids sexual communication between
Data are somewhat contradictory. Ford and
stated that intercourse before puberty ceremonies are strictly forbidden to
boys. However, according to Freimark (1911:p163),
it was not uncommon among the Senegalese Wolof to find premenarchal coitus. Ames (1953:p140): "Young people, including
the boys who attend the bush circumcision school, are given no instruction in
sexual techniques. They learn by experimentation beginning in childhood".
However, Faladé ( 1963:p220)
observed that girls entering marriage (at 16 or after, but certainly after menarche)
are "quite ignorant" of sexual matters. A marriage has to be annulled on
account of the impotence of the husband. "This causes a good deal of anxiety
among mothers on account of their boys, and it often happens that they will
want to see that their little boys are capable of having an erection" (Faladé,
1963:p222; also p220).
found that only 29 in 100 Dakar girls had been sexually educated before
puberty, another 56 after. Senghor and Sow (1975:p237)
argue that "[…] l'éducation sexuelle est à peu près inexistente chez les
Sérères, Walaf et Lébou car elle est réduite au comportement que la
fillette devra plus tard adopter en tant qu'épouse".
[ca 1960, DJ] this age is set by the decree of June 15, 1939, at 14 years for
women and at 16 years for men. Previously, Ouolof custom set the age of the
girl at 14 years, but some exemptions were admitted with the precaution that
the marriage would not be consummated until the girl was nubile. The age of the
man was generally set at more than 16 years with a range between 18 and 22
years. Since the rule is legally established today, it no longer gives rise to
discussion. Nevertheless, practices which run contrary to the provisions of the
public order of the decree continue to be followed".
In one case the marriage of a fourteen
year old girl was be annulled by the application of the provisions of the
decree of June 15, 1939, but in order to sustain the validity of the marriage,
the defence invoked the fact that the marriage had not yet been consummated and
would not be until the girl reached the age of puberty. The Court of Dakar
nevertheless annulled the marriage by citing verbatim the provisions of the
1939 decree which prescribes the annulment of any matrimonial agreement
concerning a girl who has not reached puberty, whether she consents or not. It
concludes: "Consequently, the marriage of a girl who has not reached puberty is
declared null in the full legal sense". Faladé, however, stated that
premenarchal consummation was infrequently present.
Marriage was contracted before or very
early after birth (Diop, 1984:p12).
found that Guinea sexarche generally took place between ages 12 and 17. "On note cependant un assez grand nombre
d'expériences enfantines: 12% de jeunes gens avaient, à leur première
expérience, moins de 12 ans  et 11% de leurs partenaires" (p88). Three in 24 had coitus between ages eight and ten. Masturbation was
said to be followed by threats to psychic and physical health (p84), and nearly
half of boys did not answer the question.
a 1995 survey (Gorgen et al., 1998),
the average age of first sexual intercourse was 16.3 for young women and 15.6
for males. The sexual partner is typically a peer.
For another report on adolescent sexuality, see .
Social status is established through an
informally consensus relative to life phases (kare):
the kare can be defined relatively easily using
biological markers such as puberty and fertility, in practice the definitions
become more difficult and less precise. Identifying the moment of puberty, for
example, is complicated, because it can be at the time of menarche, or when a
girl's breasts begin to develop. Although some families marry off their
daughters at the first sign of maturation, others prefer to wait until several
years after menarche, when a pregnancy is more likely to be successful".
According to Jackson (1977:p95),
betrothal before birth or in early infancy was usual. The girls wear a red
thread around their waist to signify this status. Marriage follows immediately
after initiation after puberty (Jackson, 1975:p395).
During the seclusion after girls' initiation ceremony (dimusu biriye),
the end of childhood, they receive instruction on "domestic, sexual and moral
matters" from older women while waiting for their clitoridectomy scars to heal
The Humui, or medicine society, forbids sexual intercourse
with a girl under the age of puberty (Little, 1951 [1967:p147]; 1954:p131).
Sex matters are taught to initiates in the privacy of the kpanguima, or
Sande [women's society] initiation enclosure (Boone, 1986:p52).
In older days, children would be severely chastised for the most innocent
curiosity or questioning (p78, n2). Girls are instructed during the Sande
society ceremony, which is to transform her from child into adult (Jedrej,
this, "[t]hey are subject of [sic]
lewd speculation by the men and there is no doubt about their sexuality"
On the West Coast, Poro [secret society associated
with the Kpelle and Mende, Mano, Gola] schools, four years of duration, were to
instruct the boy on matters related to "the traditional rules which govern
religious, intellectual, social, economic and sexual life" (Torday, 1931:p111).
According to Brongersma's resources
(1987:p115) Poro children have sexual intercourse from an early age. Initiation
requires abstinence; ejaculation may be arrived at by whipping, thus, without
using the hand. Liberia Poro novices eat each the other sex's genital parts
after circumcision and clitoridectomy (Bettelheim, 1962:p94).
[Additional refs.: Gervis (1957 :p90, 101, 112, 252)]
found that Kpelle parents fondle the genitals of their infants.
The mother generally takes care of sexual instructions
at girl's puberty rites (Aka-Anghui et al., 1972).
One study examined the sexual behaviour of pre-adolescents (aged 9 to 14) in
schools in Abidjan (Aonon, 1993).
In a concurrent study on their parents,
the following was observed:
"There is a strong influence of
what we might call the "traditional model" (mimicry and things left unsaid) on
the parents' conception of sexuality. They have lived in a context where there
was a family taboo on the subject of sexuality, hence it was never spoken of.
Even when sex could be alluded to indirectly, in terms that the children might
be able to understand, they were always left in ignorance by the parents, and
by the extended family too (by all the preceding generation, in fact). The
parents realize that they must speak to the children about sex, but do not know
how to bring the subject up. They believe that sex education is the
responsibility of the family (93%) but they do not talk much about sexuality
with their children, and leave it to the school to teach them (54%), giving
priority to the "moral" aspects of the question (they hope that the children
will be taught a code of good conduct and that teachers will speak about
fidelity or abstinence, rather than contraception)".
"includes sexual education by means of sensuous dances and songs [in which]
sexual liberty is accorded the youth of both sexes".
In a recent study
on students, the average age of the first sex was 14.3 and 15.6 years in males
and females, respectively. According to another study: "En Côte d'Ivoire, la moyenne d'âge
d'entrée en activité sexuelle est de 15,48 ans dans la population adolescente.
Cependant, les filles entrent en activité sexuelle en moyenne beaucoup plus tôt
que les garçons (15,38 ans contre 15,91 ans). Par ailleurs, tandis qu'à 16,47
ans la moitié des filles a déjà eu un premier rapport sexuel, cet âge se situe
à 17,19 ans pour les garçons".
[Additional refs: CRLP (2000) Women of the World:
Laws and Policies Affecting Their
Reproductive Lives: Francophone Africa. Progress Report, p111-32; Holas, B. (1957) L'Evolution du
Schéma Initiatique Chez les Femmes Oubi (Région de Tai, Côte d'Ivoire), Africa 27,3: 241-50] Adams, M. J. (1991)
Celebrating Women: Girls' Initiation in Canton Boo, Wè/Guéré Region, Côte d'Ivoire,
One of the main acts of male initiation
ceremonies to the Poro is a ritual intercourse between the neophytes and their
symbolic mother who has just given birth to them. This rite "materializes the initiatic
axiom: Senoufo men reproduce themselves by incest" (Zempleni, 1990).
The Kne initiation is to prepare girls for
sexual life (Deluz, 1987),
taking place at puberty, and rather before than after (p123). Clitoridectomy is
part of the rite.
[Additional refs: CRLP (2000) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Francophone
Africa. Progress Report, p44-65]
Montjoie et al.
(1967:p85)noted: "Les jeux sexuels des enfants sont très fréquents à cet âge [until
puberty], mais se font la plupart du temps dans des endroits cachés et inconnus
des parents". From puberty to marriage (p88), "[l]es relations sexuelles sont
assez difficiles à décrire. Certains affirment que, comme l'âge du mariage est
précoce, il y a peu de relations sexuelles avent ce dernier. Ils ajoutent que
l'acte sexuel entre les petits enfants n'est qu'un acte mimé et qu'ils
l'abandonnent très vite. D'autres sources donnent des avis très différents".
Among the Mossi of Burkina Faso, girls are
married shortly after puberty (Hammond, 1966).
Some adolescent bestiality occurs, also because of the late circumcision, which
is necessary for access to women.
On the Mossi, it is stated (Erny, 1988:p179-80) that:
"Les mères prennent […] l'habitude de surveiller très tôt les érections de
leurs garçons. On caresse les organes génitaux surtout pour apaiser l'enfant. Des
ablutions à l'eau froide visent parfois à rendre le futur homme sexuellement
plus puissant. Au Katanga, "les parents se soucient très tôt de la bonne
formation des organes génitaux chez leurs enfants. Il suffit de féliciter une
mère pour son dernier-né en disant qu'il est muzima (plein de vie) pour qu'elle
fasse constater aussitôt le bon état de ses organes génitaux, surtout s'il
s'agit d'un garçon" [Leblanc, 1960:p44].
A most detailed poly-ethnography of
childhood sexual socialisation is offered by Kaye (1960:p374-408; 1962:p116-29),
who collected attitudes, behaviour and counterbehaviours on 21 sites in Ghana,
and on different linguistic groups; numeric data were collected by means of
questionnaires. Parents fondled infants' genitalia. Kaye (1960:p388-94;
1962:p125) found that children were punished harshly for masturbation (14 of 21
sites), notably with red pepper or ginger applied on several orifices (penis,
vagina, anus, nostrils, eyes). Masturbation was nevertheless practised almost
universally (1962:p124) in several Akan towns. Heterosexual games (1960:p94-7)
where on the whole common, including prepubertal sexual intercourse,
but punished frequently. Attitudes toward children's nakedness vary
considerably according to the degree of urbanisation.
also gives a detailed account of Ghana childhood by interviewing adolescents in
schools, did not find much punishment mentioned. "Children start experimenting
with sex at an early age. One secondary school boy claims that he made his
first attempt at the age of four, another boy when he was seven. From eight
onwards it becomes more frequent". Coitarche occurred at age 12.1 (M) and 14.2
(F), but was as low as 11.7 for a Kwahu secondary school. Still later, "[s]ex
games in which children play the role of mothers and fathers are commonly
practiced in Ghana. The games are not forbidden, but sexual exploration in the
form of mutual examination of genitals may not go unpunished. Until puberty,
boys and girls play together freely, and in towns and villages, especially in
moonlit nights, clandestine affairs are sometimes reported" (Ankomah, 1997).
"In practice few schools have
a comprehensive program on family life education".
increased mobility, education, and other agents of change have together
undermined the traditional channels of sex education. With very limited access
to sex education both at home and in the schools, coupled with long periods of
schooling in an unmarried state, the gap between sexual and social adulthood
has widened, and the modern Ghanaian adolescent faces a sexual dilemma. When in
1991, students in two secondary schools in Accra were asked to state their
sources of knowledge on reproduction, the most frequently mentioned source was
teachers - apparently as part of biology lessons. On the broad issue of sexual
knowledge, students most frequently get their first information on sex from
friends, and further from their teachers and relatives. According to Bleek's
study in 1976 ,
girls more than boys tend to rely on relatives, especially their mothers, for
their first knowledge on sex education. Boys generally receive this information
from male friends. The role of teachers appears to be equal for both sexes. In
the urban centers, students also report magazines and books as an important
source of sex information".
In Ahafo, girls must not get pregnant
before menarche is formally announced, a practice that may be delayed for years
after its actual manifestation (Vervoorn, 1958).
Anarfi and Awusabo-Asare (1993:p8;
cf. Arnafi, 1993:p9):
seem to be no traditions, customs or beliefs prohibiting premarital sex in the societies
studied. Over half of the sample, of both sexes and in rural and urban areas,
were unaware of any prohibition on premarital sex: what was consistently
mentioned was prohibition of sex before a girl underwent puberty rites. For
girls, reaching physical maturity, signalled by menarche, was marked with
extensive rituals: it symbolized a woman's ability to become a wife and mother.
Sexual activity before puberty rites were performed was considered a criminal
offence: punishments ranged from ritual cleansing to ostracism of the couple,
particularly if the girl became pregnant before the ceremony was performed
Age at first
marriage among the sample population was very low, with some marrying as early
as 14. Age at first sexual relations ranged between 13 and 26 years for males
and 10 and 26 years for females in the rural areas, giving median ages of 19
and 18 years respectively.
An ethnogeographic account of female
circumcision was offered by Knudsen (1994).
Today, with the ban on female circumcision, "parents and older people in the
Kassena-Nankana District tend to trace changes in their children's sexual
behavior to invasive forces- money, media, "white men's values", and family
planning" (Mensch et al., 1999).
remarked: "Young girls are usually married and become pregnant within a month
or two of their first menstruation […]".
studies have argued that "[…] the expansion
of formal education for females, urbanization and migration, have changed the
traditional system of social and sexual maturity. Girls no longer marry at
puberty, at least in urban areas, a situation that increases the gap between
physical maturity and age at first marriage. This gap creates conditions for
premarital sex". According to one study,
subjects became sexually experienced at a mean age of 15.5 years for males and
16.2 years for females. Among street
children the mean age of sexarche is 14.5 for both sexes;
between 4 and 5 per cent of the children had experienced sexual intercourse for
the first time below age ten and another 39 per cent by age 14.
"In Ghana, the most well-preserved female puberty rites
are the Dipo of the Krobo, and the Bragoro of the Asante. So important were the
ideals of these rites that its violation in former times constituted a
crime. A girl who became pregnant
before the performance of the puberty rites was banished together with the man
who was responsible for it. Purification
rites were performed to rid the society of its evil consequences. It must be noted that not only did the
puberty rites prepare the young for marriage, it also prepared them for
procreation without which marriage was incomplete. The ceremonies therefore,
marked the entry of young girls into adulthood. During the period of their
ritual seclusion the young girls are taught the secrets of the society and also
brought closely to the supernatural forces which are supposed to ensure their
protection, blessing and fertility during their period of motherhood. Mothers of such concerned girls usually pray
that their daughters grow to full maturity and bear children".
[Additional refs: CRLP (2001) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Anglophone
Africa. Progress Report, p30-52]
Among the Tshi-speaking people, a girl was
publicly advertised for marriage at puberty (age 11-12) by being paraded
through the streets decked out in ornaments. Lateral betrothals frequently take
place before puberty and sometimes before birth.
According to Ellis (1887:p128),
the violation of children by men is only too common on the Gold Coast. Family
tutelary deities are the special protectors of chastity of girls before puberty
(beginning at age 11 or 12). A family deity appoints a spirit to walk behind
each girl. At puberty its duties end. Barrenness is commonly thought to be due
to prepubertal sexual intercourse (ibid.).
"Children of opposite sexes
play at husband and wife and sleep together on the same mat. When children are
caught at such practices, the male child is given a good beating and never
allowed to remain with the females alone anywhere in the compound. The female
child is rather treated cruelly by the mother. She grinds pepper and applies it
to the child's vagina. The other children in the family ridicule the
unfortunate pair and the treatment becomes a warning to the other boys and
girls against similar practices. […] It is said […] that housekeeping play
sometimes branches into sexual play, little boys pretending to be husband and
wife and trying to copulate. Detailed inquiry shows that this is not uncommon.
The usual method of sexual experimentation at this stage of development follows
the pattern of adolescence. Small boys "woo sweet-hearts" with little gifts,
and sexual experiments occur in connexion with dancing or by chance
Masturbation is "overt until puberty in
boys". Parents take it for granted that children will indulge in sexual play
Fortes added that the Tallensi "are not surprised at the comprehensive and accurate
sexual knowledge of a six-year-old, though direct instruction in these matters
is never given" ([1970:p223, 239-40]).
According to Fanti customs, "[s]ometimes it
happened, for personal reasons, that children were betrothed before they were
mature; in such cases the boy's parent maintained the girl in her father's
house and watched her, and was entitled to satisfaction if she were tampered
with. When both had reached puberty the marriage was completed by
says that among the Fanti, the boy is censured for masturbation. Possibly as a
result, in Apam, "masturbation among children is thought to be very rare, and
believed to have no effect". Girls are initiated at menarche,
afterwards, the girl is "sold" into marriage, with no love involved.
Among the Ewe-speaking peoples, children
may be betrothed in childhood or before birth.
In Dahomi, girls aged ten to twelve, in every town, are married to Gods. They
remain three years in religion institutions prostituting themselves to priests
and inmates of male seminaries, at the end becoming "secular" prostitutes.
Among the Anlo Ewe, sex before the puberty rites was considered not only
immoral but also an affront to the spiritual powers, particularly the
ancestors. Sexual intercourse was reserved for procreation, the family regarded
as a sacred unit (Dovlo, 1995).
"These prohibitions were traditionally taught from childhood on, though not
always in a formal manner". "Children were severely punished for such acts as
masturbation and sodomy and childhood play activities that [may] lead to sexual
contact". Sexual instruction was carried out by the same-sex parent, for girls
formalised in the premarital seclusion (p32). In a more recent study
(data gathered 1971-3), first sexual experiences were found to occur at age
18-19 (boys) and 17-18 (girls). Though a changing pattern, girls could be
betrothed before puberty, and are paraded around the village to announce their
nuptial status at pubescence (Nukunya, 1969:p77-9).
In Goviefe, "masturbation in children is
recognized as being common. Masturbation will make the child grow into a
highly-sexed personality and it will lead to the development of premature, or
precocious, sex appetites and, therefore, immorality" (Kaye). In Vakpo, "it is
thought that no children masturbate over the age of three". In Gblede, "mother-and-father
make-believe games are not encouraged but are viewed with suspicion by parents
who think that they might lead to sexual play".
The practice of early betrothal has been
mentioned. In precolonial Ghana, Akan and Ewe girls were not to become sexually
active and get pregnant before the celebration of puberty rites, which were
held soon after menarche so as to reduce the possibility of an unsanctioned
birth (Smock, 1997). These nubility rites "are considered as preliminary to
marriage; indeed many Ashanti girls are betrothed before they enter them"
Nubility chants "make blunt, almost obscene, allusions to sex and love". To
asses a nubile girl's moral integrity "no factor is taken into account more
than the condition of her breasts: loose dropping breasts are, rightly or
wrongly, taken as symptomatic of pre-nubility sexual intercourse (p30-1). After
the rites, a girl "has now access to the sexual life which previously was
absolutely forbidden her".
Sexual intercourse under the age of puberty "[…] is an abominable crime. Girls
must refrain from it at all costs" (p82).
Boys are refrained from masturbation and
sex play by paternal prohibition (Rattray, 1927:p69;
Ford and Beach, 1951:p180).
However, infant's buttocks and penises are tickled (Kaye). Rattray (1932:p137)
quoted a Gurensi informant as saying that, formerly, there was much rivalry
between lads who acted as cattle herds, who competed in wrestling and archery,
and "youths who attempted early sexual intercourse or masturbation, lost their
prowess and skill, and were derided". Lystad (1958:p57)
states that girls and boys approaching their teens "are kept pretty well
separated in their play, so as to avoid both the temptation and the appearance
of wrong […]" (see also Fortes, 1949:p251). Akan boys would think that salt,
milk, coffee and spirits increased penile size (Bleek, 1976).
Children use everyday terms for genitalia (Kaye). In Benim, "small boys who
hold or play with their genitals are often threatened with castration". In
Bompata, "only a few parents were aware that their children masturbate. […]
Parents believe that masturbation in children leads to a bad life, and boys are
punished by being beaten, girls by having pepper rubbed in their genitals and
sometimes in their eyes". In Jakabo, "masturbation, by boys and girls, is said
to be common". In Bosofo, "children often play such games [fathers and mothers]
when they are left alone, involving mutual masturbation and actual sexual
intercourse. The investigator cites a case of a girl of seven who had sexual
intercourse with a boy of two and a half years of age by directing his
actions". In Jaisi, " "sex games are common and frequent among children",
involving mutual examination of genitals".
The Shanti practised prenatal/ infant
betrothal (McCaskie, 1981:p491-2).
The betrothal was normally solemnised following the nubility rites that marked
the girl's passage through menarche. Puberty was awaited for the consummation
of a betrothal.
"The actual ceremonies on the day
prior to the consummation of marriage seem few, simple, and unostentatious. The
following is an account of a wedding of a girl to a man to whom she had been
betrothed since infancy. On the sixth day after she has menstruated for the
second time, the bride, dressed in her best clothes and gold ornaments, is led
by her mother to the bridegroom's hut, where he is sitting ready to receive
them. The bride and her mother thank him for all his gifts; after which she and
her mother again return home. After dark the bride is again escorted by her
mother to the man's house. They all sit on a mat and converse, and the man
gives his mother-in-law some tobacco. Then the mother-in-law departs, leaving
the young couple alone together" (Rattray).
"The Asante believe that by the
time of puberty men and women, but especially the latter, should ideally
develop a neck with a series of rings or folds running around it. These are a
mark of beauty and sexually exciting" (McLeod, 1981:p173).
"If a girl is not already
betrothed she is expected to become so after this ceremony. If she has been
"married", i.e. is a "child wife", the husband is immediately informed. In
times not so very remote, any laxity of morals prior to reaching puberty was
commonly punished by death or expulsion from the clan of both the guilty
parties; if a man had sexual intercourse with a young girl prior to the
appearance of her first period it was considered as an offence for which the
whole community would suffer" (Rattray).
"Quite little girls are married
and go to live with their husbands, cooking and engaging in the household work,
though the man does not usually have sexual intercourse till she "grows up"
Sexual connection with a girl before she had reached puberty would fall under
the category of "murder".
speaks of "[…] the fact that the impact of Western culture, far from imposing
asceticism, has gone a good way towards breaking down the still existing rules
of partial sex-restraint and control through tribal religion, e.g. the customs
of puberty rites, before which a girl had to be chaste, are no longer
considered of such importance".
According to Tait (1961),
a girl is betrothed to a man of more than twenty years of age (p108), sometimes
to an elder who may give her away for marriage (p84). Boys carry on love
affairs from adolescence onward, girls have full sexual freedom until marriage
Children play husband and wife but when six
to ten years old, "if this activity leads to sex play, corporal punishment is severe
since any kind of sexual expression among "siblings" of the minor lineage is
regarded as incestuous", and only the "purely economic aspects of these roles"
as rehearsed (Grindal, 1972:p25).
Among the Isalas, "masturbation in children is recognized as exceptional.
Parents are of the opinion that their children do not practice it" (Kaye).
Among the Ga in Accra, Jahoda (1956:p126)
"occasionally observed sex-play among small children; adults who discover it
happening will discourage this, not without any obvious signs of disgust and
moral indignation". During the seclusion associated with female puberty rite,
"some" families would take the opportunity to provide sex education (Otoo,
1973). In Tema,
boy infant's penises are fondled, allegedly to produce a smile (Kaye). In
Teshie, "the attitude of parents towards young children who masturbate is one
of indifference, though if the child is a boy he may be told that his penis
will be cut off if he holds it again. Some parents may scold or slap their
children for masturbating". Also, "make-believe games of husband and wife often
lead to attempts at sexual intercourse. "More often than not, parents take a
serious view of such actions". They are punished in many cases with red pepper
on the genitals. While such organised games are not common, boys of eight, nine
and above sometimes have sexual intercourse with the girls in the room during
the night. When children sleep in the same room, boys on one side, girls on the
other, "this usually leads to sexual activities during the night". In
Christiansborg, "children play sex games which are severely disapproved of by
their parents. If they are caught doing so, red pepper is put in their
genitals. "It usually happens that there is always a very old woman in every
house whose official duty is to deal with such cases".
In Agomanya, it is said of masturbation that "the freedom enjoyed in
the love life of the young makes the practice of it unnecessary" (Kaye).
Steegstra (1996, 2002)
studied the interplay of Christian values and Krobo female initiations called dipo. "In
female initiation ceremonies the sexual attractiveness and health of initiates
are key themes (e.g. Lutkehaus 1995: 20), and dipo is no exception. That
after dipo a girl is allowed to enter into sexual relationships goes
against Christian morality, which situates such relationships within marriage.
Therefore, many Christian Krobo see the rites as the catalyst of teenage
pregnancies, prostitution, and further 'immoral behaviour" (2002:p201). In
1873, Schönfeld marks:
"The five-year-old girl is aware of
all the mess of the sins and shame of the mother. Living in the same rooms of
immorality with the adults, she hears everything, imitates the mother. My
report would become filthy in its expressions if I were to go into details.
When the child with an already spoilt mind, and most of the time an already
defiled body, enters the twelfth year, then it is taken to the Mountain. There
it is carefully instructed into all the filthy sexual secrets (as we would say
in Europe; here people don't know secrets in this respect), initiated, seduced,
shown how to disturb the fruit of the sin, and above all the Krobo woman there
becomes the bearer of the fetish veneration and corrupt customs. When the girl,
who has grown up in the meantime, comes from the Mountain, she is fully
uncommitted in all her movements" (translated by Steegstra, 2002:p212)
"A fiancé was allowed to visit
his future wife from time to time when she was still 'under custom'. Sexual
play between them was condoned, but full intercourse was strictly forbidden"
(Huber 1993 :98-100, as cited by Steegstra, 2002:p212).
In Apirede, "it is though that a child who
masturbates will be spoiled, and it is beaten and red pepper is applied to its
genitals and anus and sometimes rubbed on its face" (Kaye).
In Larteh Kubeasi, "masturbation is said to
be rare among girls. Boys are "gently rebuked" for handling their penises in
public. This rebuke is never addressed directly to the boy but is made to a
third person: "Why does he finger his penis in that way?" (Kaye).
A child is warned and, if ineffective,
beaten if it mentions genital terminology (Kaye). In Tutu,
masturbation "is very common among infants and toddlers, and more among
children between the ages of two and six years. Children beyond six years of age
and under sixteen do secretly practice masturbation in pairs, usually at night,
when two friends of the same sex sleep together; it is practised more often by
girls than boys. It is believed that if masturbation is practised in excess the
inevitable result is sterility and madness". Young children who masturbate are
scolded or slapped; older children are beaten, or have red pepper smeared on
Further, "make-believe games are approved
by parents, but sexual activities are forbidden".
"Betrothal to a big man (naboma) or a great
hunter can involve baby girls as young as three or four. The naboma thus becomes
the sponsor of the girl's growth". The girl is "declared ready" after the
(quite late) first menstruations; then she is "claimed as a wife" or "given"
away (Poppi, 1986:p40).
[Additional refs.: Froelich, J. C. (1949) Les Sociétés d'Initiation Chez
les Moba et les Gourma du Nord-Togo, J Soc Africanistes 19,2:99-141; Akoto E.
M., Tambashe B. O., Amouzou J. A. & Ntsame O. N. (Sept., 2000) Sexualité,
Contraception et Fécondité des Adolescents au Togo. Projet Régional Santé
Familiale et Prévention du Sida (SFPS), p4-7]
[Additional refs: CRLP (2000) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Francophone
Africa. Progress Report, p24-43]
"Formal sex instruction" may precede
puberty initiation (Stephens, 1971:p407).
Herskovitz (1938) describes genital doctoring. Homosexuality is seen as an adolescent phase (ibid., p289).
Dahomey adolescents enlarge their labia pudenda and occasional mutual
masturbation would occur (Carrier, 1980).
In Dahomey (Kossodo, 1978:p113),
Fan mothers practice clitoral masturbation, pull labia, stroke the anus and use
water beams for then minutes on the vulva. This continues until age four. The
practice is said to induce frigidity and cause childlessness.
Sexual education is given to the girls in their period of seclusion, who later
pass on their knowledge to the boys (Herskovits, 1932).
Coitus is not supposed to start until the passage of 48 menstrual cycles. Boys
have homosexual liaisons in early adolescence when girls are unavailable. In
Dahomey, "[…] the fact that in early puberty groups of boys build and live in
houses of their own, electing their own leaders and carrying on much in the
fashion of adults, is […] regarded by Dahomeans as educational. Especially
important are the recognized mechanism of sexual experimentation, while perhaps
not less significant is the withdrawal of nubile girls from contact with boys
who might cause them to become pregnant. This creates a situation which leads
either to further training of young men in sex through illicit relations with
older women, or to indulgence in homosexual experience, which is sanctioned for
this period" (Herskovits, 1943:p743-4).
"The average age at first marriage in Nigeria is
16Child marriage is particularly common in the north, where the majority of
girls are married between the ages of 12 and 15.The National Policy on
Population discourages early marriage and states that parents should not
arrange marriages for girls below the age of 18". "Child marriage is practiced with the belief that it reduces
promiscuity among young girls and because of the importance attached to
Traditional requirements for premarital
virginity vary across tribal communities (Feyisetan and Pebley, 1989).
The demise of arranged marriage is
evidenced by the present-day disregard for premarital virginity (Renne 1993,
1996a, 1996b:p178-81). This change is related to beliefs
about the relationship between virginity and fertility, which in turn reflect
ideas about paternal control of women's bodies and marriage. In traditional Southern Nigeria, "[b]etrothal takes place at all
ages, even from before conception in the womb-on the chance of the infant being
a female- until the girl has reached marriageable age; it usually, however,
occurs when the child is a few years old (Talbot, 1969 [III]:p425).
This is noted for the Edo, Sobo (p437), Ijaw (p438), eastern Ika (p442), at
Awka (p445), Degama Division (ibid.),
Owerri Division (p447), and further at least among the Abadja, Amarisi, Iji,
Ezza, Aro, Ihe, Ututu, semi-Bantu, Ibibio, Orri, Yachi, Ukelle, Ekuri
Akunakuna, Mbembe, Ekoi, Etung, Olulumaw, Nde, Afitopp, and northern Nkumm.
Later (childhood, pubescence) betrothals are noted for the Iyala, Atamm, and
southern Nkumm. Age stratified betrothals of at least a generation are the
In 1950, the legalised age of marriage was
13, while menarche occurred past age 14 (Ellis, 1950).
In Ibadan, Nigeria, a local myth would state that STDs are cured by intercourse
with young virgins (Sogbetun et al., 1977).
revealed that the Nigerian experience of spermarche was not particularly
negative, and that the level of anticipation was not associated with
Children would not be allowed to mention
the names of sex organs (Uka, 1966:p79).
Only 7.6%, more among urban, schoolgirls were told about menarche and
pre-marital pregnancy (Osujih, 1986),
and parents were not involved with issues of sexuality in cases of adolescent
pregnancy, unlike friends (Oronsaye et al., 1982).
According to a 1990 survey (Turner, 1992),
median age of first sexual intercourse was just above 16 years for females,
three-quarters of a year earlier than the median age at first marriage. Among
senior secondary school girls from Port Harcourt (mean age 16.32 years), the
mean, modal and youngest ages of initiation into sexual activity were 15.04, 15
and 12 years respectively (Okpani and Okpani, 2000).
observed that colonisation has removed the traditional forms of sex education
through initiation ritesand pre-marital counselling by the
elders so that young people nowadays rely mostly on peer information or erotic
movies and publications. It seems to the author that the only avenue left open
is to teach sex education through the school systems. A systematic review of
the provisions for sex education in primary and secondary schools as well as
teacher's training colleges bring the author to the conclusion that although
the sex education curriculum seems comprehensive on paper, they are mere copies
of similar American or Canadian programmes with very little attempt at
stated that it was rare to find villages where puberty rites were still celebrated.
This may have caused the following situation:
"Sex training is
almost non-existent in many Northern Nigerian families. It is considered to be
sinful or "corrupting" to speak about such matters candidly between parents and
children. Adolescent boys especially are given little or no information about
the sexual changes taking place in their bodies. Nearly 80 per cent of the male
respondents stated that no one in their family told them about sex and its
proper use in their lives. However, only about 50 per cent of the female
subjects said they were not given proper sex information. Those male subjects
who were told about sexual matters, were given this informat[io]n primarily by
older brothers, rather than by their mothers or fathers. In these case of the
females, their mothers were listed as the main informants in sexual matters.
Older sister, aunts, house-mothers in boarding schools, female principals and
grandmothers also helped some of the female subjects in this matter".
In a large
scale study between 1993 and 1995, Obisesan and Adeymo (1999)
found that 5% of respondents admitted sexual intercourse between ages 6 and 10.
The finding was not associated with gender or tribe (5.4% Yorubas, 4.9% Hausa, 3.7% Igbos, 3.3% other tribes). This compares well to findings by Oloko and
that 3.6% of Yoruba adolescent school students had their first sexual
intercourse around age 10.
-- Akinboye (1984)
-- Araoye and Adegoke (1996)
-- Esiet, U. E. et al. (2001) Nigeria, in
Francoeur, R. T. (Ed.in chief) The
International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Vol. IV. New York: Continuum.
Among the Nupe, betrothal may have been "as
early as five to seven years for girls, and ten to twelve for a boy, but this
is not usual", the usual age for girls being fifteen to seventeen (Temple and
informants denied boyhood masturbation; however, "[…] when confronted with
incontrovertible evidence they admitted that parents did sometimes observe this
kind of "play" and would warn their boys that it was a "bad thing" ". At the
initiation festival adolescents have ritualised sexual licence, and children
are allowed to sing obscene songs, and discuss ribald matters (Nadel, 1949).
Nadel (1952) noted that
Gwari (Nupe) children are familiar with cohabitation from earliest age, taking
place in the wife's hut. This contrasts with the attitude of the Nupe wife
leaving her children behind when going to the men's hut. The first sexual
experiences occurred at ages thirteen to sixteen; later men claim that sexual
activities are weakening and should be more restrained.
only refers to modesty codes. Faulkingham ([1972:p163]):
"Boys and girls freely play with one another; sexual experimentation is
""As a yaaròo [child] begins to
purchase his own clothes with money he has earned and when he works in earnest
on his father's farms, he comes to be considered a sarmàyi. He comes under the
charge of the Sarkin Sàamàarii (pl. of sarmàyi) who may recruit the youth's
labor at the command of the Sarkin Noomaa. The youth generally builds his own
sleeping hut near the entrance to his father's gida . Throughout this period
until the birth of his second child, the youth is expected to engage in
courtship and sexual play with many girls younger than he; this does not cease
Prepubertal girls flirted with and accepted
gifts from young men as they wandered around the villages and markets hawking goods
for their secluded mothers. Hausa women are married just before puberty
(villages) or after (rural dwellers), to adolescents some seven years older
"Youngsters" may have "inconclusive" [nonpenetrative] sexual interactions. In
some area, Hausa boys and girls may be married as early as age 12-13 (Rehan and
As Baba of Karo
points out, "A girl's first marriage is established by a rite de passage, and this is also carried out for a man's first
marriage. By means of this rite, an individual exchanges the status of a youth
or girl for that of an adult. To be an adult, it is therefore necessary to have
been married". Smith (1955)
stated that "[m]arriages between pre-adolescent children [.] are permitted, but
the marriage of a pre-adolescent girl to an [.] is, in theory, regarded as
undesirable. In the past, and to some [.] still, these marriages were frequent
among the important aristocracy, [.] family providing her with an elderly
chaperone until her first [.]".
Thus, Hausa girls were traditionally
expected to marry at puberty, and thereafter were considered adults. The
widespread introduction of western schooling in 1976, especially universal
primary education, began to postpone marriage for girls (Callaway, 1984:p438).
"In most parts of Hausaland, child marriage
is the rule; both boys and girls are married by age 12 or 13 years in the large
towns, and at even younger ages in the villages.
Girls may be married before they reach puberty
[…]" (Rehan and Abashiya, 1981:p233).
Despite this betrothal in Muslim Hausa, "[…] the lengthening of the period of
social adolescence as a result of the increasing number of years young women
spend in formal schooling creates amply opportunity for sexual experimentation
among the relatively better educated and Christian Yoruba and Igbo youths in
Southern Nigeria (Makinwa-Adebusoye, 1992:p68).
In the early fifties Hassan (1952) reported on this degeneration of the
betrothal system, and the emergence of a sexually free adolescence.
states that marriage occurred preferably before menarche, to a man not
uncommonly 20 years older than she.
"No sex-education is provided
to girls. Sex-related subjects are tabu and are not touched upon in discussions
between parents and children. Young girls marry and are brought to their
husband's house often before they have reached the menarche and they are
therefore unprepared for marriage both with regard to their own physical
development and to the knowledge of the sexual expectations of their husbands".
"Although it is said that full cohabitation
between the husband and the minor should not take place until the girl has
reached puberty, it does not happen in practice and quite often children under
thirteen years of age and scarcely developed are subjected to intercourse with
their husbands long before they attain maturity" (Uzedike, 1990:p88).
This intercourse may be forced, and aided with a so-called gishiri cut. Callaway (1987:p35)
speaks of "forced sexual cohabitation at puberty regardless of mental and
One author (Holthouse, 1969:p111, 117)
states that the apparent lack of sexual inhibition in Hausa may partially
result from the practice of tsarance,
group visits of children to other wards than their own. "During these visits,
the boys and girls sleep together. They stroke each other, talk and tell
stories; rarely do they have sexual intercourse even after they reach puberty.
Tsarance is continued until the girl marries, at puberty or "almost always by
the age of 14". Girls do not marry their tsarance partners, and couples whose
marriages have been arranged from their infancy do not practise tsarance
together [a footnote here in the original text was not printed]. "Also,
children wear little clothing for their first few years and have ample
opportunity to satisfy their curiosity about sexual differences. This
permissive attitude toward childhood sexual experiences continues into
adulthood and into marriage". The Hausas "almost eliminate adolescence" by
permitted a form of sex play they called tsarance, which stopped short of full
intercourse. Furthermore, tsarance partners were forbidden to marry. Occasionally,
partners broke the rule regarding sexual intercourse but only at the risk of
tremendous shame. A pregnant girl brought a small bride-price. However, it
seems likely that some tsarance partners who wished to marry attempted to do so
through having children (Hassan and Shuaibu 1962).[…] There is a very strong
double standard explicit in the Islamic view regarding non-marital coitus.
While both young men and women are encouraged to have premarital sexual
knowledge, young women are culturally expected to be virgins at marriage. The
tsarance relationship was a socially sanctioned means of obtaining sexual
knowledge while safeguarding a girl's virginity […]. Barkow (1971) writes that
the relationship is called tada or hira among the Hausa of Zaria, and that
premarital sex is often a part of the relationship. In Yauri, the premarital
petting between a boy and girl follows the more traditional tsarance
relationship. Where tada or hira (literally, chatting) is supposed to end in
marriage, tsarance was not. The tsarance relationship prevails in Yauri, and a
young boy and the girl of his choice have little to do with one another until
they are ready to make marriage arrangements".
Authors, however, blur the terminological
difference between Tsarance—"sleeping
together, cuddling, etc., of unmarried youths and girls" and Tsaranci—sexual intercourse between
Concluding, unmarried girls are courted
privately and at public ceremonial give-aways, over which certain
praise-singers and drummers preside, both with a view to marriage and the
institutionalised premarital love-making known as tsarance. Girls are married between the ages of thirteen and
fourteen, and probably re-marry two or three times, on average, afterwards.
is one of three marriage forms (Smith, 1953 [1968:p112]).
Premarital chastity is not valued, and out-of-betrothal impregnation would be
In the case
of primary marriage, it is usually preceded by betrothal arrangements during
the infancy or early childhood of the spouses by their parents through
intermediaries (Smith, 1953 [1968:p120]).
that, apart from neonatal circumcision on boys, the Efik practice hymenectomy
and clitoridectomy on seclusion, or in later days, at age 3-6. Girls are
secluded at age 9, in former days even 3 years. During this period, she is to
refrain from sexual intercourse with her intended spouse, or else bear the
title ebua, "dog". At the time of writing, marriage was taken over by European
Formerly, a Tiv boy had his first experiences
with a women who would have secretly "initiated him into the secrets and
techniques of sexual relations" after circumcision at puberty; the occasion
would be a secret between the boy and his mother, who pressures to boy into it.
states that women "say that the idea of sexual relations with an uncircumcised
man is repugnant", expressing their distaste in terms of cleanliness and,
mostly, fastidiousness" (Circumcision was said to take place at age 7 to
pubescence). At circumcision, an eight-year-old boy would ague: "Easy, easy,
many women will weep if you err". In the past mothers would tie a shell
threaded onto a piece of cotton around the girl's neck to insure she would come
to full puberty without any boy touching her (East, 1939 [1965:p309]).
Puberty does not seem to be associated with transition rites, and proved
altogether inconspicuous (Bohannan, 1958:p382-3).
"When a girl first reaches puberty she will menstruate. The blood of the first
menstruation is called iyoukyon. Some
girls will go hide so that the other women will not know, though sometimes her
mother knows. But there is little blood. Another girl will sleep with a man
before the iyoukyon has occurred, and
if her luck (ikôr) has not closed she
will become pregnant. Other girls don't sleep with men until they have passed
blood" (Bohannan, 1969:[p71]).
The Kanuri share Islamic conceptions on
sex. On male formal sexarche, Cohen (1967:p160)
remarks: "Young boys generally obtain their first sexual experience in their
mid to late teenage period from divorced women who are often older than
themselves". However, considerable protosexuality is noted:
"Sometimes play takes in both
sexes and is more complex than simple imitation […]. Thus for several days a
large group of young children from the age of five through ten may organize a
"wedding". The "bride" and "groom" are chosen as are the various kindred, the
best man, the leading woman, etc. Care is taken to practice as many of the
details of the adult virgin wedding ceremony as they can manage including even
a mock impregnation, in this case with a small doll. Wedding foods in miniature
are passed around to the adults who accept the mock food with a show of
seriousness although they may comment on or question some detail of the
ceremony carried out mistakenly or omitted by the children. Adults expressed
satisfaction with this type of play and remarked on its instructive value for
the children. Such play is related to an even more complex form called mai-mai, which is no longer practiced in
Bornu. In playing mai-mai the young
children in a village put on a pageant. They chose a king, nobles, servants,
slaves, wives, gave titles to everyone, and behaved for several days in the
guise of these socio-political roles. Mock battles were fought, slaves taken
and justice meted out in a mock court. Seniority was established by age and
consent. The organization was temporary like the "wedding" and disbanded after
a few days. During periods when adults are out of the compound, away at a
market, or working in the fields during the growing season, children often play
house. The group gets together and appoints "fathers", "wives", and "children".
The little children may actually cook for their "husbands" on such occasions
and the couples go into a hut in the compound where sexual play is carried on.
They are, however, soon called back to the larger group where it has been
declared "morning" by another child who has announced the "morning prayers"
signifying that night has passed. Boys are aware that such play should stop
when they can ejaculate. From then on they are men; sex is a serious affair and
unmarried girls are illegitimate objects of sexual intercourse. However such
prepubescent sex derived from playing "house" is widespread, or to paraphrase
one young informant, "Everyone does such things when they are young" ".
"The typical adolescent male has his first
sexual experiences with a woman older than himself. However, when he decides to
marry he usually tries to find a woman of roughly his own or of a junior age
group" (Cohen, 1960).
Cohen also speaks of the following:
upper class informants spoke of the traditional practice of giving young concubines
to upper class boys at their circumcision, so that they might have a female of
their own in order to learn about sexual intercourse. Because of the waning of
the slave population numerically this practice seems to be dying out, (only one
case of a male who had been raised in this way of the younger, 20 to 30 years
ago, generation was recorded)".
On marriage, Cohen (p161-2) states:
"By the end of childhood, as
the Kanuri define it (which means somewhere between the ages of nine to thirteen),
the sex roles and many of their accompanying behaviours have been established.
From this period onward the development towards adult status is sharply
differentiated for males and females. Somewhere around puberty a young girl is
given in virgin marriage by her father or the person who has been designated as
having the power of marriage dispensation over her. Male informants feel that
it is better if a girl is married before she menstruates and claim that
religion prescribes this as the best kind of first marriage for a girl.
Exceptions are, of course, quite common and not regarded as very bad as long as
the girl is a "virgin" (i.e. proven so on her wedding night). When she marries
for the first time a girl does not automatically change her status. She is
still considered a fero gana (a small
girl) just as she was before marriage, and for some little time continues to
wear her hair in the young girl style. As one informant put it: She knows
nothing, she copulates yes, but takes no interest in such things, there is no
pleasure in it for her. When she bleeds, then she is kamu kura (a mature woman) and she knows everything and will take
pleasure from sexual intercourse. When the first blood comes the girl will feel
shame and tell no one, only her close friends, who will tell her mother. Her
mother will come and gather together her friends and relatives (female) and
cook food and give sada'a (offerings
to the poor)".
informants believe it is proper for a girl to marry before her first
menstruation so she may learn to become a woman in the household of her
husband. Certainly there is general agreement that all girls should be married
as soon after the onset of puberty as possible" (Cohen, 1971).
According to Partridge (1905:p254),
"[g]irls are betrothed by her parents to her future husband when she is only a
few years old. […] Until she reach [sic] the age of puberty, a girl is
permitted by her parents and by her betrothed to go about freely and have as
many lovers as she pleases. She may not, however, bring a lover into her
takes place at age 3-4 (Talbot (1969 [III]:p438). Three days after "Genital
Painting Day" (Kunju Mie Ene), the girls are free to take a lover, but to have
intercourse before the Iria ceremony is considered a disgrace never quite wiped
out (Talbot (1969 [II]:p402). Before menarche, girls are not allowed to wear
anything until a short loin-cloth.
remarks on Iria:
"For the Okrika tribe, who lives on the island of Ogoloma in
the river district of southern Nigeria, the Iria is the traditional coming-
of-age ceremony for pubescent girls. This ceremony contains all four of the factors
found in ritual coming-of-age ceremonies; isolation, instruction, transition,
and celebration. However, two interesting factors distinguish this ceremony
from many others: it is performed when a girl has reached a relatively mature
age (about seventeen), not at the onset of menarche [sic], and it is a group initiation. Years ago, girls were expected
to marry immediately after completing Iria, but today finishing an education
and starting a career is considered acceptable. Basically, Iria is a way of
proclaiming a girl's womanhood, beauty, and marriageability".
During the ceremony, wise women inspect
their breasts mammae, in order to detect pregnancy, and therefore unchastity
To fail this chastity test would bring great dishonour and shame on their
families and the offending girl would be seen as both loose and a prostitute.
"There is no prohibition of sexual play in this age group [4-6y], and
informants recount tales of games in which little boys compare penis lengths
and examine the anatomical difference in little girls". Adult sex is not to be
observed, but nonetheless, "when a four-year-old imitates the movements he saw
his father performing the night before, adults shriek with laughter. Sex for
the Ijo does not appear to be hedged with guilt and sin, compared to the
dictates of the Judaeo-Christian heritage". Parents, however, do not approve of
adolescents' petting, which appear to arise at age 15 or 16 for both sexes,
since they fear pregnancy (cf. Hollos and Leis, 1986).
"Parents say they regard five- to eight-year-old children as relatively
sexless. Yet boys play with their penises in public with impunity while girls
would be severely chastised if they touch their own genitals". Later, the
children are placed in separate beds out of fear for intercourse.
"There appear to be
two kinds of marriages among the Bini. Among the upper classes the children are
betrothed by their parents from infancy. The present may be a nominal one, such
as four kolas, three cowries, and some palm wine, or it may be more. The man is
supposed to keep on giving the child betrothed to him presents until she is
grown up; he also makes her parents gifts. The seduction of such a betrothed
girl is heavily punished. On the other hand, among the poor the girl is not
necessarily betrothed, and a man may seduce her without legal punishment. […]
The girl may not refuse to marry the man to whom she is betrothed, or his
chosen representative; but the father may at any time refuse to give his
daughter to her betrothed, when he has to refund to him all the presents the
would-be husband has given to her and her parents" .
girl is sometimes affianced when she is a few years old" (Talbot (1969
[III]:p433). Onibere (1984:p103)
states that among the Bini, lacking a puberty rite, "[...] sex is sacred and
mysterious and it is taboo for parents and children to discuss it". Unmarried
boys are less well off than girls, since they spend more time with the
same-gender older generation (Mbiti,
1969:p135 / 1989:p132).
"Much of the sex
information is gathered from a mixture of truth, myth, ignorance, guesswork and
jokes. Formal schools and universities in modern Africa are often the centres
of even greater ignorance of these matters, so that young people go through
them knowing, perhaps, how to dissect a frog but nothing about either their own
procreation system and mechanism, or how to establish family life. In this
respect, surely traditional methods of preparing young people for marriage and
procreation are obviously superior to what schools and universities are doing
for our young people".
southern Marghi (e.g., Womdi) the bride is barely pubescent, and the groom will
not have sexual intercourse with her, though
he has general licence to have relations with older girls in the neighbourhood
[…]. When the bride becomes old enough to have sexual relations the groom may
come to her compound and spend the night with her", but she, too, may have
relations with village boys at that time (Vaughan, 1962:p51-2).
fall in love with one another just as Europeans do, and there is the same
intrigue, squeezing and cuddling and loving embraces, but there is no kissing.
Free girls are not given in marriage until arrived at the age of nominal
puberty, i.e., when the pubic hair
begins to grow .
[…] A girl child can be kept for a man to be his wife when grown up; juju 
is made to keep her virtuous, but as a rule women are not chaste until married"
(Granville and Roth, 1899:p107).
With the zane, or incision of the final tribal
markings, the girl is considered eligible for marriage, one year after the
second, pubertal scarification rite (Kirk-Greene, 1957).
She does not marry a boy until he has undergone his Hono initiation rites (which includes endurance, but not
"The Karogo and Moroa girls marry later
than the Kajji, whose brides can hardly average ten years of age. There is,
however, no age limit, for no one counts the number of years he or she has
lived, and even seasons are not noted for the purpose of reckoning ages […].
With the Kagoro or Moroa the first menstruation [age 11 or 12] appears and the
mammae develop, and after that the marriage will be soon or late according to
the needs of the girl's father. With a boy, the test seems to be whether he can
get an erection or not, but, of course, he must also produce the necessary
presents […]; he would be sixteen to eighteen years of age (Tremearne,
couple were [sic] betrothed in
childhood; the marriage was solemnized when the woman was pregnant" (Isichei,
married in their early 20s, women after menarche (Netting, 1969).
Divorce and adultery regulations are rather loose.
(female circumcision, age 17, or after puberty) sex is common, but supposed to
be reserved for the premarital pair (Jeffreys, 1956).
Infant marriage was not uncommon, the bride taken to her husband's home; at
least betrothal took place when girls were 2 to six years of age (Talbot, 1969
[III]:p451). Intercourse before maturity is forbidden: if its occurrence was
proved, the family could claim her back without returning the dowry (Talbot,
first great event in the life of an Ibibio girl is her entrance into the
"Fatting-house", on the occasion of Mbobi--i.e. "The Coming of Small Breasts"
(p76). "Among the Efiks, and those Ibibios rich enough to bear the expense,
free-born girls of good family go twice, and sometimes even thrice, into the
Fatting-house before the full marriage ceremony is performed. As already
mentioned, the first occasion is called Mbobi, "The Coming of Small Breasts".
This usually lasts for three months, during which time the girl undergoes
circumcision" (p82-3). "According to Ibibio ideas the actual marriage tie is
entered upon after the payment by the groom to the bride's parents of the major
portion of the so-called "dowry money". The first instalment of this
constitutes betrothal, and is often paid when the little maid is still very
young. Infant betrothal and marriage are not uncommon. In the latter case the
baby bride usually lives with her husband's family; but, save in very rare
instances, her youth is respected by him. Should the contrary be proved against
a man his conduct is regarded as reprehensible, and the girl's family can claim
her back without returning the dowry. In many cases child betrothal and
marriage inflict undoubted hardships upon the unfortunate bride, who thus has
no word to say as to her own fate. At the present day many such youthful
spouses, on reaching years of discretion, claim the protection of Government to
free them from an arrangement in which they had no choice" (p88).
The ratings for earliest childhood suggest the most
permissive attitude regarding sex in the SCCS. The Shuwalbe Fulani practice
infant betrothal between boy and girl (Wilson-Haffenden, 1927:p281-2;
timing of consummation, does not become apparent, although there is "no
subsequent ceremony". Webster
"It is true that marriages are often arranged between
cousins in infancy, or even before birth, and cousin marriages are preferred
among many clans for reasons connected to property. […] On attainment of
puberty, however, the girl can make her own choice- preferably among cousins,
or at least within the clan. […] The consummation of marriages previously
arranged usually takes place after the annual sharo or test of manhood, but marriages may take place at any time.
Girls marry late, usually between eighteen and twenty-two".
For the Schwalbe, "moral" instruction of boys is
effected by the father (in contrast to the Keffi Yegomawa (settled) Fulani,
were it is by the paternal uncle), and that of girls by mother (resp., paternal
aunt). Stenning (1959:p148-9)
assumes a menarchal age of 16, the ideal age of marriage of 16, and the ideal
age of first pregnancy of 17. Boys, who play freely with girls, leave their
childhood behind at circumcision, scheduled at ages 9-10 (p156). After puberty
(age 14) he learns about the flirtations of girls, and enters the gerewol courtship dance, in which his
participation is "the index of his virility". Eguchi (1973:69)
states that girls are usually married at ages 12 to 14; preparations, including
instructions, take place at the soro
initiation. For the Schwalbe, "moral" instruction of boys is effected by the
father (in contrast to the Keffi Yegomawa (settled) Fulani, were it is by the
paternal uncle), and that of girls by mother (resp., paternal aunt). Riesman
the principles of Fulani freedom but is hardly specific about sexual liberties
for children. Dupire (1962:p184): "Frères
et soeurs donnent libre course dans leurs amusements aux parodies et aux
moqueries, mais vers l'âge de six ans ils apprennent que les jeux sexuels
autorisé avec d'autres enfants sont "honteux" entre eux". Dupire
notes that social morality is instilled in girls from age four to five,
including incest taboo in sex play. Hopen (1958:p71)
indicated that, although girls and women expected to adhere to a stricter code
of sexual morality than men and boys, case histories make it clear that "a girl
is permitted, without loss of status, to engage in sexual play in which she
hopes to maintain technical virginity", perhaps in contrast to earlier days.
Even boys of 5 and 6 are "quite aware, owing to the influence of youths and
adults", that they will one day marry"; they also build camps and play
on the Shuwalbe group of the Borroro Fulani, in Northern Nigeria (1927:p287):
"Adulterous intercourse with a married woman, other than a fellow age-mate
still within the years of childhood, is usually not condoned […]. Sexual
relations between age-mates (married or not), however, are condoned provided
the parties are still within the years of childhood, which are regarded as
terminated in the case of a girl about one year from the date of reaching
marriageable age, or, roughly, from the date on which members of her age-class
start to give birth". Wilson-Haffenden (1930:p114, 116):
"[a] custom of permitting an element of sexual laxity, or in other words
condoning sexual "play" or intercourse, between age-mates still within the
years of childhood-whether betrothed or not- at certain festivals exists at the
present day among the pagan Borroros, but not among the Muslim Fulani". Among
the nomadic Fulani children are betrothed at ages seven to ten in the case of
girls, and from three to ten in the case of boys (De Sainte Croix,
a practice named koggal. Marriage
follows at ages fourteen, or at puberty (girls), and seventeen (boys), with a
preferred age differences of three years.
"There is no particular sex instruction [at the Okolobia, where "the young
man comes" "seemingly no moral instruction if given"], but also there is no
particular hiding. The facts are learned by the young just naturally. […] Among
the unmarried pagan young, sex conditions seem to be fairly good [?], though by
no means ideal. Among the Christianized youth of both sexes, conditions are
quite good" (p58). Thomas (1913 [1969, I:p70])
stated that for the unmarried, whether betrothed or not, "regular relations
begin at the age of 13 or 14; if her suitor has paid the whole of the bride
price, she may go to his house earlier. A girl begins her sexual life with a
boy of 15 or 16, who takes two shillings to her mother and says he wants to be
friends with her […]". "Girls are generally married soon after their first
menstruation, but if they are not fully or well developed it is postponed"
(Talbot (1969 [III]:p441). Basden (1921 [1966:p67])
states that Ibo laxity in child discipline "does not improve their morals, and
there are incidents of child life which are said to contemplate". Thus, little
attempt is made to correct the children and it is quite a new experience for
them to come under school discipline. Nzimiro (1962:p254-5)
noted separation at puberty, and sexual knowledge being acquired informally.
The first sexual experience for Igbo
girls is generally after menarche (Ogbalu, 1979).
According to Ottenberg (1989),
who presents a most detailed study of gender role development, Afikpo boys are
prohibited to have intercourse before circumcision, a reason to perform the
operation early (p38). When violating the rule, boys are thought to be weakened
by the act. Most of the sexual behaviour, which would be surprisingly modest,
seem to occur in a sort of unsupervised annual children's orgy called egwu [mirrored c]nwa (Moonlight Dancing, p109-12). It does not involve more than a
petting courtship. In the adult equivalent, this type of bonding is omitted. It
does not involve more than a petting courtship. It was said to provide
"experience in exercising sexual [self-]restraint", for boys rather to protect the female partner from
sexually aggressive advances performed by other boys.
A recent update on sexual socialisation by
Ogbu (1996) found that
authority has shifted to Afikpo mothers who are unprepared to assume the
responsibility. "In traditional Afikpo culture mothers were not responsible and
did not function as the principal agents of sexual socialization. Hence, with
the shift of responsibility they are unable to function as agents of sexual
socialization. Traditionally, sexual socialization was managed through socially
orchestrated rituals, such as initiation".
relates that Igbo girls' coming-of-age begins at age seven, with the teachings
of household, proceeding until the menarchal nubility ritual, at about age 14.
During the seclusion, the girl is introduced to the "female secrets" of married
life, including "formal lessons in the major vales associated with successful
conjugal relationships". This entails wifely subjection and restriction on
sexuality, including pre-marital chastity and fidelity within marriage.
speaks of infant betrothal and adoption marriage among the Mbaise Igbo.
Isichei (1970; 1973:p682-5)
dwells at length on Asaba childhood sexuality. In theory the child before
puberty was not to know anything about sex. Questions were answered by fables,
not answered, or avoided. Children were segregated in tasks by pressure of
parents, so that it was "almost impossible for children of different sexes to
meet". This would lead to "stupendous ignorance about the facts of sex",
although some data were gathered through knowledgeable age-mates (one boy
claimed to be initiated by a widow at age ten). Boys of certain age are given
riddles to solve, but for children "to pry into sex would have been an
unpardonable crime"; however, some would offer their share of fish for
satisfaction of their curiosity. "A few of them even tried to use this
knowledge to imitate the sexual act. But as often as they were caught in this
imitation, the punishment inflicted on them knew hardly any limits". Parents
"preferred to think that children under eight years could not know any
undesirable significance of their sexual differences, and for them, they did
not consider it necessary to insist on their being segregated […]. For those
above eight years old segregation was the rule until after puberty".
[Additonal refs: Smith, D. J.
(2000) "These Girls Today Na War-O":
Premarital Sexuality and Modern Identity in Southeastern Nigeria, Africa Today 47,3-4:99-120]
Nicolaisen and Nicolaisen (1997, II)
is considerable individual variation as to when young Tuareg first engage in
sexual activities. From the age of seven to ten years children may sometimes
copulate, though this is not typical. We noticed among the Kel Tahabanat,
however, that some children were apparently sexually active or at least allowed
to publicly fantasize about sex. A girl of about eleven years told us that she
slept with boys of about her own age, and nobody reacted against this. Ida
[Nicolaisen] observed two adult men laughing heartily at the five year old son
of one of them, as he demonstrated how he copulated at night with a somewhat
older girl. It may also happen that a girl of no more than seven or eight gets
married, in which case she will have intercourse with her husband though she is
not yet sexually mature. This, however, seems to be quite rare. In general,
Tuareg do not have sexual intercourse until they are physically grown up, which
is marked by initiation rites".
An institutional periodic meeting of
teenage sexes (ahal) provides
occasion for nose-rubbing and further liberties (Patai, 1962:p123). "As a
result of this institution, pre-Islamic in its origin, both girls and young men
begin their sex life as soon as they reach maturity, and no value whatsoever is
placed on virginity".
The Urhobo and Isoko of the
Niger Delta begin sexual intercourse "very early in life".
Traditionally, betrothal in infancy or childhood was customary in Benin Kingdom
(p48) and among the Northern Edo (p121). Among the Isoko, ritual
sexuality is expected of the girl with her husband within one week of her
circumcision, practised generally at menarche or within one year of that event
Among the Nigerian Rukuba, one type of marriage
consists of ritual marriage of males before initiation, sometimes before
puberty. The boy spends a night with a married, pregnant woman, who instructs
him in sexual behaviour, and whom he is to avoid sexually in the future
The experience may be awkward:
ritual marriage teaches a boy what he can and cannot do although being so small
at the time of the initiation, many Rukuba men later recall with laughter the
one night spent with the pregnant woman. They insist on their bewilderment and
inability to cope with the situation, the initiative resting with the woman
who, apparently, means business however small the initiand might be".
Education about proper marital behaviour is
part of the initiation rites for pubescent boys; a ritual sexual experience
with a pregnant woman is also art of the initiation period (Muller &
Forde (1941 [1951:p13])
states that the night party, attended from ages 11 to 12 is a recognised
setting for a "first phase" of sexual experience. States Forde (1940:p57),
"[a] period of sexual play begins early in adolescence, for girls sometimes before
menstruation begins, and occurs in parties of girls and boys, usually differing
little in age. Parents exert little overt influence on the selection of
partners by their sons and daughters. Between the ages of 14 and 16 most girls
have established a stable relation with one lover, who at harvest time
undertakes to make the customary gifts and services […] to her and her parents
during the ensuing year. These, if acceptable to the parents, signify
betrothal'. Clitoridectomy is arranged at this or the next harvest, if she has
not yet become pregnant.
Betrothal often took place in childhood
The marriageable age was eight to ten for
girls, and sixteen to eighteen for boys (Seton, 1930).
Betrothal may occur at age four to five.
Among the Utonkon-Effium Orri (Armstrong,
(1969 [III]:p452), betrothal of girls occurred at birth. She joins her fiancée freely
although "too early intercourse" is thought to "cause her breasts to dry up and
may render her sterile".
Betrothed girls and boys (for boys between ages
10-16), youth are "definitely encouraged" to practice an equivalent of the
Hausa tsaranchi, " "cuddling", or sexual freedom stopping just short of
penetration". "Some girls may have as many as ten lovers in this way before
marriage or cohabitation with their betrothed husband, and a young woman who
was popular with the opposite sex before marriage wares, after marriage, a
cock's womb of white metal in her hair in commemoration of her pre-marital
success" (Harris, 1938:p137-8).
"Girls are married both before and after
puberty […]. They have strict sexual taboos and the boys and unmarried men
sleep together in a Bachelor's hall […]".
found that 5% of teachers taught sex, and most comes from parents who thought
it normal that sexual activity began at age 17 or 18 before marriage. The mean age
of sexual relations, however, was 14. In another study on pregnant teenagers
many girls started sex at age ten, stating it was an imitation of their mothers
or sisters. By age 16, 69% was regularly sexually active. According to a 1995 survey (Rwenge, 2000),
3/5 of young people stated they had discussed sexual matters with peers, while
fewer than 2/5 did so in a family setting. According to these respondents, the
ideal age of starting sex education was 13.8 years for girls and 15.0 for boys.
Age of first sexual intercourse was slightly lower for males than for females
(15.6 vs 15.8); the ideal age was perceived to be 18. However, 28.0% of males
and 18.7% of females indicated have had coitus at or before age 14. A
1987 Catholic Health Service program started sex education "among 9- and
10-year-olds, before sexual activities begin".
health educators in Nigeria and Cameroon, as elsewhere,
report that many girls find out about menstruation only after discovering with
horror that they are bleeding. Parents' discomfort is communicated very early
in life and discourages children from asking questions. The implicit messages
children are given about sexuality are often negative, distorted by myths, and
harmful. When adolescent sexuality becomes undeniable, parents typically resort
to vague threats or warnings, such as "stay away from boys." Those who
recognize their children's need for accurate information often lack such
knowledge themselves. Thus the cycle of ignorance and embarrassment continues"
Cameroon, very early marriage still occurs in certain tribes (in Adamaoua and the Northwest, and in the Extreme-North between eight and nine
years of age).Some customs call for pre-pubescent
girls to leave their homes and live with their husbands. Most of the time, the
husband is a friend of the girl's father, and the marriage has been arranged
without her being consulted.It is in the house of this
"stranger-husband" that she will experience her entire sexual and domestic
[Additional refs: Abega and Tamba (1995);
Akoto, E. M., Tambashe, B. O., Amouzou, J. A. & Tameko, D. T. (Sept.,
2000) Sexualité, Contraception et Fécondité des Adolescents au Cameroun.
Projet Régional Santé Familiale et Prévention du Sida (SFPS), p4-7]
A woman is regarded sexually mature after
menarche, but a usual delay of two to three years until marriage is customary
"Pre-puberty marriages for girls were common, but when such did take place, the
future husband was regarded as a liiwan
or guardian of the child until maturity when the girl was taken back to her
parents who then formally handed her back as a jin (bride) to the husband. Until this was done, the marriage could
not be consummated even when all outstanding premarital issues had been settled
and all obligations discharged".
has offered a detailed psychoanalytic account of beti sexuality, the prime
tribe analysed was Eton (South central Cameroon). In infancy, the labia are
stretched and the vaginal canal is conditioned (p190), leading to the
artificial rupture of the hymen. The infant's life is free of trauma in a sense that he "prend connaissance
en douceur, progressivement et naturellement, des réalités génitales et il ne
nous semble pas par conséquent possible de définir, par rapport aux Beti, un
stade phallique spécifique pendant lequel l'enfant investit dans l'érotisme
génital par la masturbation infantile". The latter
would not be punished. Parental nudity is observed by infants. Until their
separate socialisation from age 5, the sexes live together "dans la
promiscuité"; thereafter, they might still meet for play. At puberty, a
complete course in Beti sociology is to ensure a successful integration in
adult society (see also Ngoa, 1975).
This includes a preparation for sexual life during various rites (Ombolo,
It seems remarkable that this almost
400-page psychoanalytic discussion on African sexuality has no arguments,
outside a general lecture in Freudian theory, on sexual expressions in the
A "very old woman", also a circumciser,
would "instruct the girls as soon as they see their first menstruation cycle
about the mystery of procreation, the duties and sanctity of motherhood" (Nkwi,
Premarital chastity was strictly enforced for
girls between puberty and marriage; if caught, lovers were flogged (Malcolm,
This did not last long, usually a few months (age of "puberty" seemed to occur
at about age 11-15 in girls, and 13 for boys).
(Tessmann, 1911:p250; Tessmann, 1913, II:p252-3) begin to imitate parental life with ages 5 and 6,
and "mit 8-9 Jahren ist das "Elternspielen" schon nichts weiter als ein zielbewußter
Geschlechtsverkehr, bleibt aber in der allgemeinen Auffassung ein Spiel, das
mir unter [zwei Namen] direckt unter "Kinderspielen" aufgeführt wurde, und das
meistens am Vormittag in den Wohnhäusern vor sich geht, wenn die Eltern auf den
Pflanzugen oder sonsts abwesend sind. Die Partner sind dabei nicht bloß Knaben
und Mädchen, sondern auch Knaben unter sich". This
boyhood homosexual variant becomes customary in ages 8 to 10. Pangwe children
played a coital puppet game (Tessmann, 1911:p265).
Tessmann (1921 [1998:p151-2];
observed that Baifa boyhood sexual
life develops in two stages: one, as in the Pangwe) of general promiscuity
("Bei den Baifa heißen diese geschlechtlichen Vorübungen tepampam te b[o]bte"), and one of passive homosexuality
with older brothers, at age 5 or 6 onwards. When puberty approaches, the father
would warn the daughter: "Jetzt ist das "tepampam"
zu Ende!" "Abgesehen von den […]
Vermischungen der Knaben mit Knaben im frühesten Alter spielt der Bafia-Knabe
von fünf, sechs Jahren an die passive Rolle bei einem älteren Brüder, um dann
selbst durch den dadurch auf seinen Geschlechtstrieb ausgeübten Reiz zur
aktiven Ausübung an seinem Bruder oder Genossen überzugehen" (1921). Bafia children also played a coital puppet game (1934a, [I]:p164).
Other tribes in East-Cameroon were covered
by Tessmann (1928)
on his 1913/1914 field work. Among the Mbaka-Limba (p319), masturbation was
said to be common; sexual intercourse among boys and young people occurs,
though infrequently; the boys beaten with a stick by their fathers might they
find out, and pepper in applied per anum.
Among the Mbum (p336), "zwischen
Kindern beiderlei Geschlechts bis etwa zu sieben Jahren kommen mehr
spielerische Versuche zum Geschlechtsverkehr vor und zwar wie bei den Pangwe [®Pangwe] und anderen Negern auch, beim "Familienspiel",
und zwar im Busch oder, während der Abwesentheit der Eltern, in den Häusern". At puberty, there is an increase of maternal surveillance. Among the
Mbum and Lakka (p350) sexual acts among
boys and youths, "who sleep in very small huts", are common.
(1969:p130) stated that in childhood, "[i]ls sont
très vite intéressés par leurs dissemblances physiques et ne tardent guère à en
réaliser l'utilisation possible en des jeux hétérosexuels. Quoique jugeant ces
derniers nécessaires, les parents les considérent avec une indulgence mitigée,
reprochant au garçon de se livrer à la fillette les graves conséquences que de
tels actes peuvent avoir sur sa conduite future". More
or less formal courtship starts after puberty (p139-40) .
Children are betrothed in infancy,
somewhere around age six (Juillerat, 1971:p175-6).
A baby is betrothed at birth, or in infancy
a custom "fast changing today". She invites her fiancée from early age on, and
lives with him permanently at the approach of marriage. The age difference is
sometimes fifteen to twenty years. A strong taboo is placed on pre-nubile, or
pre-adult, sexual intercourse, with both boys and girls. The criterion for this
lies in the concepts of "social" instead of "sexual" puberty, so that a youth
of twenty may be regarded as a "child", id est, unfit for sexual intercourse.
Betrothal, but not marriage, of children could
take place before menarche or puberty (Rubin, 1970:p71).
Among the Mvae, prepubescents engaging in
sexual behaviour will meet less the physical rebuttal attributed to the
practice than in their seniors (for example, abdominal pains); instead they
might experience somnolence (De Lesdain, 1998:p141).
noted that the Bubi regarded the child as innocent until age 7. Later, the
children would be separated at play, and the girls are chaperoned.
The Fang are sometimes married before
birth. Complete sexual licence exists before and after betrothal (Balandier,
on the Fan (Gabon) speaks of coitus
from the age of capacity. "Before marriage a girl can do nearly as she pleases.
It is absolutely safe to state that it would be almost impossible to find a
maiden in a Fang village over sixteen years of age", according to Bennett.
noted coital doll play (bidzang) in
the Bwiti. Another game called shale
(p628n8) works as follows: "[The] children sit around spread-legged. A
bystander- usually a man- then comes forward with a piece of wood or a stone in
his fist. He thrusts his fist up between the legs of each in turn, leaving it
under one. There is much giggling. He sings: "Trapdoor spider, trapdoor
spider", [salé] you are very foolish! Hide this for me". Now another player
comes out from a hut and attempts to guess where the object is hidden. As he
reaches up between the legs, the seated player attempts to grab him".
Investigations of adolescent sexuality in Congo in the
last ten years "do not exist".
Marriage in some Congolese tribes has been early, ranging from puberty (Balebi),
or "au moment du seins qui poussent" (Bashila), ages 10-12 (Mangbetu), or ages
12-13 (Bahutu) to later ages (Sohier, 1943:p103-7).
(1909:p167): "Les rapports sexuels se pratiquent entre gens de sexe différent
nonmariés, même avant l'âge de puberté" (cf. Rachewiltz).
Mangbetu (Northern Congo;
"The [Mangbetu] children meet in a hut at night and, if they are not yet able to
have intercourse, they imitate the act with each other". Marriage around age
Torday and Joyce (1922:p269)
speak of two marriage forms: between children and adults. The same pattern is
seen for the Bankutu (p172). Among the Tofoke, "[l]es relations sexuelles avant
l'époque de la menstruation sont absolument interdits. Elles sont sanctionnées
par une amende payable par l'homme au père de la jeune fille. Les mères qui
suspectent leurs filles vérifient leurs soupçins par l'introduction de leur
doigt ou d'une tige de bananier" (Torday and Joyce, 1922:p205).
Torday and Joyce
(1910:p110, 113) remark: "Les relations entre les sexes
ont lieu de très bonne heure, à quatorze ans environ pour les garçons et à dix
ans pour les filles. […] Après que la menstruation a commencé, une fille est
supposée ne plus avoir de relations sexuelles jusqu'à l'époque de son marriage;
cependant la réalité il arrive bien rarement qu'il en soit ainsi, bien qu'un
homme ayant séduit une fille dans de telles conditions soit passible d'une
amende. […] La masturbation est très fréquente à partir d'un âge très tendre,
elle a été observé sur des enfants de trois ans; elle est personelle ou mutuelle
dans l'ouest, et plutôt personelle dans l'est. On ne trouve aucune forme
De Ryck (1937:p48-9) noted:
"Les filles sont précoces; pour hâter leurs rapports avec les hommes, elles se
dilatent le vagin avec le fruit "ndeke" de la plante besomboko ou avec les
racines d'une plante appelée "mokombe" ou encore avec un morceau de anioc. La
plus grande liberé est laissée aux jeunes filles. Avec ou sans l'autorisation
de leurs parents, elles ont de nombreux amants. L'Accord des parents est très
souvent tacite, car ils n'hésitent pas à profiter des libéralités de ces
derniers". In the case of
prepubertal or even neonatal "marriage", the girl is to live with the husband
from age 3-6 onward, "[…] mais celui-ci n'en use que lorsqu'elle est devenue
Joyce (1922:p270) remark: "La morale sexuelle des Bahuana
est inexsistante. Des individus non mariés des deux sexes se livrent au plaisir
dès le plus jeune âge, les filles même, avant d'avoir atteint l'âge de la
puberté". Parents do nothing to prevent this. The same
is said of the Akela (p185-6).
(1937:p232-3) stated: "Aucune date, aucun âge n'est
fixé pour le commencement de la cohabitation. Cela s'arrange entre le mari et
ses beaux parents. Ceux-ci n'ont pas le droit d'en retarder le moment, même si
leur grande influence sur le gendre. La géneration moderne n'est pas choquée
par les relations entre un adultère et une impubère. D'ailleurs, du point de
vue juridique, tout est régulier". The fact that his
wife is prepubertal "ne met pas obstacle à la cohabitation". The girl was
betrothed in infancy, would live in her future husband's house at age seven or
eight to be taught be ways of life by a co-wife, or pays regular visits until
age 12 or 15. The majority of girls would be married "avant la nubilité
physique. Mais elles
n'étaient pas molestées par leurs maris avant qu'elles atteint le développement
In the past, the Nkundo would teach
children that sexual activity by immature persons caused them to contract the
fatal disease called ndota believed
to visit many forms of sexual transgression ([1937:p80-2]). Hulstaert (p80, 95) noted games of "mari et femmes" "d'une
façon qui les dispose bien souvent à des embrassements sans innocence". Beside this game there are ioto
("kitchen") played primarily by girls, and yembankongo,
boyhood imitation of monkeys done to give occasion for « des scènes
répréhensibles ». Girls operate on themselves in order to "ouvrir la
voie", practices in the woods, and without exceptions (p64-6). This practice is anticipated by the
mother : "Pendant la toute première jeunesse, dès la période consacrée à
l'allaitement, la mère prévoyante travaille à donner aux organes de sa fillette
le plus de perfection possible. Par des pressions réitérées et longtemps
continuées, elle en modèle-pour ainsi dire- la face externe, afin d'en obtenir
le rétrécissement, qualité fort prisée pat nos gens". The
mother prepares the girl for married life, which may be anticipated by a
"playful" intergenerational quasi-marriage (p65-6) between men and girls, and
between women and little boys, which might include " [des] caresses intimes".
Specific prohibitions on prepubertal coitus
are noted by Schebesta (II, p345)
in his study on the Bambuti Pygmies: "Magutu,
die geweckte Mombutin vom Oruendu, sagte aus, dass den Mädchen der
Geschlechtsverkehr vor der ersten Menstruation verboten sei, doch kümmerten
sich die Kinder wenig darum, wenn nicht die Mütter auf die Töchter achten
würden". He communicated this before (1936:p97):
"Magutu versicherte, daß das "Urobo" [free premarital intercourse] under
Kindern (vor den Pubertät) verpönt wäre, und geandet were, leider trieben auch
solche Kinder ohne Wissen der Mutter Unzug".
on the West Central African Mbuti:
"[…] the bamelima spend most of their time either inside the hut or else off
with an instructress, in the forest. Inside the hut they are taught the songs
of the elima by any older women who
care to take part in the instruction. In the forest, I was told by a number of
women, young and old, the girls are instructed in the arts of motherhood. This
presumably includes such aspects of sexual life as are still unknown to them,
which are probably few, but also use of the various herbs and treatments that a
woman must know to insure fertility, an abundance of milk, easy childbirth, and
abortion if necessary".
Mbuti children play house, wherein "[…] the
young couple lie [sic] down together and pretend to make love". In the bopi (children's territory) (Turnbull,
Mbuti children explore every possibility of adult social organisation. "Adult
activities are learned from an early age by observation and imitation, for the
Pygmies live an open life. Their life is as open inside their tiny one-room
leaf huts as it is in the middle of a forest clearing, and so the children have
no need of the sex instruction which forms so large a part of the teaching
given to village boys during the nkumbi" (p226). "They do not merely confine
themselves, dutifully, to building miniature endu and "playing house", nor does imitating adult activities such
as the hunt or the gathering of nuts and roots and berries, or the making of
bark-cloth, or even copulation, interest them long. These are mere techniques
[…]. More fascinating, as pastimes, are imitations of how the wide diversity of
territorial, kinship, age, and sex roles are played" (Turnbull, 1978:p185).
Thus, "[a]lready in the bopi they
will be aware of the nature of sexual relationships between boys and girls and
will have imitated and ridiculed an extraordinary number of variations on this
theme, working their way through every kind of interhuman relationship […]"
(p189). At menarche the girl may have intercourse in the elima or Alima hut (1965:p132-40;
1957:p208; for a specific note on the elima, see Turnbull, 1960).
"Sexual experimentation is certainly a major element in the elima, but it is combined with a very
definite move to widen the social horizons of the girls, and to redirect their
attentions into what the parental and grandparental generations consider proper
horizons. There are also certain rules about intercourse in the elima hut. The senior girls, or
instructors, and the "mother" guide the bamelima
in all this".
were constantly complaining of the noise their children made while engaged upon
amorous expeditions; they preferred being able to turn a deaf ear. One youth
went too far when he called out from inside his girl friend's hut to the group
outside (which included her parents), and begged them to continue singing
because "it is so sweet to [make love] to song, just like in the elima hut".
His phrase for lovemaking was somewhat intimately descriptive, and brought
eries of protest and his immediate ejection from the hut. […] By and large all
that the parents can complain about in the sexual life of their children is the
noise. If the noise becomes too much, however, it then becomes a matter for the
band" (W.S., p203, 204).
To legitimise adolescent freedom, "[…] the
Mbuti simply denied the fact and said that although youths could have sex
whenever they wanted (within minimal bounds of privacy and respect for others)
children would never be born until the youths were married" (1983:p43).
According to Putnam, this would actually be true.
During boy's initiation rites (nkumbi), "[s]ex instruction takes place
spasmodically, but at no time is it either given or taken seriously" (Turnbull,
1957:p199). Boys aged
two to eight play nkumbi, coached by
their theoretically ignorant mothers (p202). Mbuti practised infant betrothal.
¨Hallet, J.P. &
Relle, A. (1973) Pygmy Kitabu. New
York: Random House;
¨Heymer, A (1979)
[Bayaka-Pygmies (central Africa) - hetero-sexual social grooming (delousing)
between adolescent girls and boys], Homo
Overbergh, 1908:p253), on the Basonge: "Bien avant leur puberté, tout gosses encore, négrillons et
négrillonnes se roulent dans les coins, en quête de voluptés. "Ils ne peuvent
pas encore, mais ils essayent"." Further, "[a]s to
crimes against nature, instances are few and far between, exclusively among
young boys". Merriam (1971:p78)
"For the Bala, autoeroticism among
children is considered normal although continuation of it is thought to lead to
difficulty. Boys play with their genitals "from the time they are very young",
but they cannot ejaculate "until they are 10 years old". During the evening,
when boys get together, they may masturbate (kwasa, "play"), and there is also group masturbation. Adults
consider the latter shameful and break it up whenever possible. It is said that
the result of persistent masturbation, whether individually or in a group, will
be subsequent lack of interest in women. Little girls also masturbate, first
with their fingers, and later with a dildo (kankondenkonde,
pl. tunkondekkonde) made of manioc
root. […] In addition to this preadolescent sex play, all young boys, it is
said, spy on women when they are bathing. As a result they know something of
female anatomy and the sexually connected keloid markings at an early age".
Boys and girls may sing obscene songs
(p99). Girls and boys play love games (Torday, Joyce and Hardy, 1922:p21),
choosing lovers and ridiculing those not chosen. Further, Torday and Joyce (1910:p272) note that
"Il est permis à ceux qui ne sont pas mariés d'avoir des relations sexuelles et
ils en ont dès un très jeune âge". Merriam (1974:p226)
stated: "Young men and women engage in heterosexual activities before marriage,
and in the case of girls, often before puberty". Intercourse is freely
practised during more or less informal arrangements referred to as engagements.
Boys are ready for marriage when he stops "fooling around" like a youngster,
when pimples start breaking out on his forehead ("someone with pimples can't be
trusted around women"), and when his axillary hair, pubes and beard (least
important) begin to grow. For girls, it would be thelarche, and not menarche
[age 12]; girls are ready earlier because "girls mature faster than boys".
Marriages can be arranged at age 13-15 (girls) and 15-17 (boys). Children may
also be affianced at an age as early as eight years, but this is not considered
special or different from ordinary betrothal (p233). Girls of 13-15 are said to
seek badumiyanami [heterosexual
friendships] among boys of their own age, and adults accept the notion that one
of the purposes of these friendships is sex relations (p263). "Girls of the
same age may also have a badumiyanami
who is an older married man, and one of his primary obligations in this role is
to instruct the girl in matters pertaining to marriage. Such instruction may be
in sexual intercourse as well as in other matters, and sex relations may
continue after the girls has married; in either case, the affair is carried on
in secret. Similarly, teen-aged boy may have an older married woman as his badumiyanami". Beaucorps (1941:p106)
would argue that among the Songo of the past, a man who consented to live
maritally with an immature girl would have been despised. "This vice has only
been introduced to the Basongo by civilization".
Betrothal from birth was observed (Douglas,
in Upper Congo: "Boys and girls from an early age until puberty have free
intercourse with each other, and I believe that later there is no public
condemnation if the girls are not betrothed. […] Premenstrual connection is
desired by men because they like it, and also because they can indulge freely
and there is no palaver, and it is not until the beginning of the periods that
girls are guarded from promiscuous intercourse". After puberty, restrictions
were placed on the girl, and the act was regarded as adultery. Weeks
there were no virgins beyond the age of five years, and after puberty. Among the Boloki "it
is impossible to find a virgin above five years of age" (Weeks, 1911:p127).
"Ethnic group and religion are
also significant influences on the timing of early life course transitions. As
the magnitudes of the estimated coefficients in the different tables indicate,
there are substantial differences by ethnic group in age at entry into sexual
activity and motherhood, and somewhat smaller differences in age at entry into
marriage. The differences by religion tend to be smaller than those by ethnic
group for initiation of sexual activity and childbearing, but they are as large
or larger for entry into marriage. These results indicate that cultural and
religious differences among women in Kinshasa are important determinants of
differences in the timing of these life course transitions".
Among the Kongo kanda, marriages were arranged by parents. This arrangement was
most usual when a man sought to secure a right to an infant. He would then
co-habit with her when she reached the age of thirteen or fourteen" (Hilton,
Based on autobiographical material, Erny
dwells at length about childhood and adolescent sexual development, giving a
poly-ethnic survey including data on the Batetela, Bapende, Bakwa-Luntu,
Bakongo, Mongo, Bapende, Babembe, Baluba, Lulua, Bayombe, Mbanza, Bambala,
Bayanzi, Basuku, Bahungana, Bayansi, Luntu, Muyaka, Zande, and Alur.
Preparation of the female genital (vaginal and hymenal distension, elongation
of labia majora) are noted for the Bapende (in groups, with the use of herbs),
Babembe, Batetela, and Baluba. Andropoetica (phallopoetica, aphrodisiacs) are
used among Batetela and Mongo boys. Questions about sexuality are generally met
with evasion among the Baluba, Bambala, Bayanzi, Basuku (particularly true for
father-son conversations); some parental sex education is noted for the Mongo,
as well as grandparental education among the Mongo, Baluba and Bahungana.
In a 1988 study (Rind, 1991),
mean age of first sexual intercourse was 17 for men and 16 for women. In a later study, mean age at first sexual
intercourse was 17.1 for males, and 16.8 for females (Magnani et al., 1995).
In a further study
among 1198 students from six rural and two urban schools in Zaire in 1990, the
average age at first sexual intercourse was 11 years for boys, 13 years for
initiation rite is called nkumbi (cf. ®Mbuti) as described by Towles (1993).
Sexual education takes place within the
context of the initiation rite called enjáni,
carried out by the njáni, when girls
have had, or are about to have, their menarche (Monongo and Akanga, 1987).
The sexual instruction of the girl takes
place within the institution of the Unwali
In the bush school associated with circumcision,
matrimonial issues are raised, including the technique of the act of
procreation (Erny (1972 [1981:p82-3]).
According to Bitota (1987-9)
prenatal and prepubertal betrothal are in regression.
pubertal girls practise elongation of the labia minora and hymenal distension
(p243-6). The mother never takes part in sexual education, which is reserved
for the age class (p236). The girl is informed on sexual hygiene and habits
before and after matrimonial acts (p246).
"Intercourse takes place before the girl's
first menstruation, because the Azande believe that early intercourse
accelerates the beginning of puberty" (Czekanowski, 1924). Infant betrothal is
the rule (Seligman, 1932:p511-2).
"After circumcision a boy is recognised as a person old enough to have sexual
intercourse […]" (Baxter and Butt, 1953:p74);
this, however, occurs at an age variable from early postnatally to age 18.
"Zande children were taught that, properly, sexual intercourse should take
place only between married couples, but extra-marital intercourse was not
regarded as an offence if indulged in discreetly" (B&B, p71).
Communications on behaviour are sparse. "In Africa, according to information
communicated by Professor Evans-Pritchard,
quite young children among the Azande or Nuer begin to play at house-keeping
and marriage, and it is then that they receive their first lesson in social
morality, the adults interfering to impress upon them that these games must not
be played between brothers and sisters" (Seligman, 1932:p213). Thus, "[c]hildren are not taught that sexual
indulgence is wrong, but that its only legitimate place is within marriage"
(Seligman and Seligman, 1932:p514).
"As children grow up into boys and
girls they will never miss a dance. To both sexes it is a means of display
which becomes intensified at puberty. The dance is one of those cultural milieux
in which sexual display takes place and selection is encouraged. The sexual
situations of the dance are not very obvious to the observer. Boys and girls
come to the dance to flirt, and flirtation often leads to sexual connexion, but
society insists that neither the one nor the other shall be indulged in
blatantly. At the same time society permits these sexual incidents so long as
they occur with discretion and moderate concealment. A boy who openly
approached a girl would be reprimanded and abused, but if he catches her
attention whilst she is dancing with her friends, gives her a little nudge
perhaps, and when he sees that his advances are reciprocated says mu je gude
(come on kid!) no one will interfere. They go quietly into the bush or into a
neighbouring hut and have intercourse (Evans-Pritchard, 1928:p457-8)".
According to an oral history
(Evans-Pritchard) there was copulatory "play". Thus, "[…] small boys for their
part- one will take hold of another to press on him in boys' play, but this is
what he has seen his father doing, his father copulating with his mother – so
he goes after little girls whom he knows to try to copulate with them. So when
a little boy mounts a little girl the grown-ups just laugh, just laugh quietly
and then pretend to be angry, saying to him 'eh child, from whom did you get
that idea? Who told you to do that sort of thing in front of people. It is just
a child's behavior".
According to Enry (1971:p11-2;
1977:p339-41), no formal
sex education is given to either child or adolescent. "At nine or ten, he will
help in the crops, collect firewood, and generally change from a child into a
boy. He will no longer be sleeping with his parents, but in a little hut built
apart, either by himself or with his brothers if he has any, but never with his
sisters, for to do so would be considered very shameful, as in Zande eyes to
sleep in a house with a woman is tantamount to lying with her" (Larken,
account of Azande ejacularche:
"Azande say that in the early
stages of male puberty the seminal fluid (nzira) does not contain souls of
children (mbisimo gude) and it is only when a boy blossoms into manhood that
his semen becomes fertile. That the souls of children are connected by a simple
inference with the presence of spermatozoa in the seminal fluid is shown by the
statement that the fluid becomes fertile when it ceases to have the appearance
of water and becomes thick and slimy like the yolk of an egg […]. Semen is
thought to cause a boy's first ejaculation by collecting at the root of the
penis and forcing its way out. This first ejaculation of semen is somewhat
painful since the semen `burns like fire' but afterwards the boy ejaculates
without difficulty though for a long time his seminal fluid is like water. A
boy of about 12-14 years of age is said to have orgasms without emissions; from
about 14 to 16 his emissions are 'merely like urine' and contain no mbisimo
gude; at about 17 years of age they contain mbisimo gude. A man considers himself capable of
procreating children so long as he is able to ejaculate sperm" (1932). "The
first time a boy gets an erection with sperm in clearing a way in his penis it
may trouble him while it makes a way. When it happens and he for the first time
ejaculates sperm it is hot for him like fire. After that he begins to ejaculate
coolly. The first sperm just comes like water for a long time, for about three
months, then real sperm begins to come […]" (1974).
A now defunct homosexual boy-wife system
was practised by unmarried Azande, as described by the Seligmans (1932:p506-7):
"Part of the male population
between the ages of 20 and 35 was organized into vura, called aparanga for
the unmarried and abakumba for the married.
While the members of the vura were at
court they lived in large houses outside the chief's enclosures, and near them,
in smaller isolated huts, lived the chiefs' sons or near male relatives. The aparanga worked on the chiefs'
cultivation in time of peace, organized under leaders, in units ready for
military service when required. Some of these young men brought with them boys.
These boys were sometimes spoken of as women, and were even addressed as such:
the seniors might in jest call a particular boy diare, "my wife", and be addressed by him as "husband". The young
men paid spears for their boy "wives", and the bond between the two was
publicly acknowledged. The boys behaved as women in that they ate out of sight
of their "husbands" and performed numerous minor duties for them, though they
did not cook for them but fetched them cooked food. At night they slept beside
them, and with these youths the elders satisfied their sexual desires. The
custom was definitely recognized as a substitute for normal heterosexual union.
Now that military service has been discontinued the practice is no longer
necessary, nor does there exist any desire to continue it; it might be said
that homosexuality is no longer fashionable, indeed homosexual practices
between men seem non-existent at the present day, though when referring to the
subject the Azande generally express no shame or disgust. It should, however,
be noted that penetration was never practised".
was also described by Evans-Pritchard (1957, 1970, 1971).Evans-Pritchard (1957:p379-80; 1971:p182,
183) also comments on Azande Princelings. "All Zande princes were (and still
are) accompanied by a number of these small boys to attend them wherever they
went. […] Azande do not regard it as at all improper, indeed as very sensible,
for a man to sleep with boys when women are not available or are taboo, and, as
we shall see later, in the past this was a regular practice at court. Some
princes may even have preferred boys to women, when both were available. This
is not a question I can enter into further here beyond saying I was told that
some princes sleep with boys before consulting the poison oracle, women being
then taboo, and also that they sometimes do so on other occasions, just because
they like them".
Further, "Many of the young warriors
married boys, and a commander might have more than one boy-wife. […] The two
slept together at nights, the husband satisfying his desires between the boy's
thighs (p199-200). Evans-Pritchard (1970:p170 [1992:p170]), although too late
to observe the practice himself, notes that the word "boy" (kumba gunde) "must,
it would appear, be interpreted liberally, for as far as I could judge from
what I was told the lads might have been anywhere between about twelve and
twenty years of age".
stated: "The unbetrothed girls from an early age up to puberty had free ingress
to these houses [adolescent bachelor's clubs] at night, and their parents
encouraged them to go, as it "showed they had proper desires, and later in life
they would bear children" ". Access to the bachelor's huts is customary for
boys aged 12. Boy infants' potency is greatly valued by his mother (Enry,
1971:p92). Van Wing (1959:p29)
relates how pubescents discover that one day he has to become a mbuta, an
elder, a man capable of procreating. This makes him happy and proud, and the
novum is rapidly spread among his comrades.
Boy infants' virility greatly pleases his
mother (Enry, 1971:p92).
Regarding the Batetela, "[i]nfant betrothal
is found among the various sections of the tribe, but the habit of engaging a
new-born female child to a small boy by throwing an iron bracelet into the
water in which the baby has been first washed is only practiced by Sungu mothers" (Torday, 1921:p375).
Milk must not fall on the infant's penis or
vagina, for it will cause impotence or hypersecretion
(Enry, 1971:p92; 1977:p341-55). Girls of five or six go to the forest and pull
the labia majora and the clitoris "afin de les faire grandir et d'attirer ainsi
les garçons" (cf., Torday, Joyce and Hardy, 1922:p71). Girls touch each other's
mammellae to ensure its future ability to produce milk. The vaginal canal is
dilated digitally, or with a manioc dildoe. Boys of this age apply manioc
powder of the penis to prepare the organ for circumcision (ibid., p93-4). A multitude of sexual taboos exists (1971:p96-7;
1977:p349-50), including genital automanipulation, on the threat of impotence.
Children observe parental nudity, and "hear every anecdote". A certain amount
of sexual education is given to the girl by her mother and certain women of the
village (sexual hygiene, coital techniques). The boy is merely told to be
potent, and to satisfy the girl (p101-2).
Both children (about 8-9) and adolescents practice house/marriage play
(by one informant named Asanga),
including coital play (p105-6).
Children are sometimes betrothed by parents (p106). Children married at age
10-12, boys at 15 (Torday, Joyce and Hardy, 1922:p68).
Information is provided by Enry
(1971:p108-11; 1977:p336-9). No systematic sexual education until two or three
months before marriage. Heterosexual play is reprimanded. Despite all precautions, "[...] on trouve des
petits de six ou sept ans qui simulent les relations sexuelles ou cherchent à
se séduire mutuellement". Children are not noted to play homosexually, but
hut/marriage play in mixed groups includes sex play: "Les premiers se livrent à
des jeux sexuels tandis que les seconds "ronflent" dans leur coin. On interdit
sévèrement aux petits de raconter au village ce qui s'est passé". One boy is to play the rooster and wakes the couple. The games
continue until boys enter the circumcision camp and girls are engaged.
Two-versions of Alur sexual development are
provided by Enry (1971:p112-7; 1977:p355-61). Sexuality should serve
procreation, and discussion of sexual matters is considered a sign of bad
education. Children and adolescents are not to know anything, and are to grow
up "dans une innocence absolute". Sexual games are at least feared by parents
who shield pubertal children from younger ones, lest they partake in outlawed
amusements called tuko cung'kol, so
to speak, "le jeu dans les déchets de millet". Sex education is not offered,
and libidinous or obscene tendencies are not tolerated. Some clues to marital
life are finally offered by the paternal aunt (to girls) past the age of
twenty, and to boys. Genital touching is forbidden from infancy on. Children
might join the bachelor's hut (od ubire)
from age 6-7.
I:p279) on the Baluba: "Même avant la puberté, garçons et filles se fixent des
rendez-vous secrets, dans les herbes ou sur le bord de la rivière". Potions may be used in the intention of altering the course of a
slow or accelerated puberty (Enry, 1971:p94). Boys organise masturbation
contests to prove their virility.
notes that marriage is enacted at age ten to eleven for girls, compared to
later ages in the past. The genitals of little girls (seven to eight onward)
are rubbed internally and externally by themselves with a pepper called kiulamulundu, the juice of which makes
the flesh swell. Pieces of wood were inserted and occasionally the girls resort
also to bleeding and cupping. For this, they would be sent out in the forests
by parents for secret rendezvous known by the term kwikana.
Sex is a matter only shared between members
of the same gender (Erny, 1977:p331-3). Many games with a sexual character
exist between young and old children.
Kokonge and Erny (1976:7-27)
discuss at length the development of sexual behaviour. The maternal task of manual
preputial adhaesiolysis in infants is institutional, since the condition of
permanent fixation is considered kameme,
a defect. When the prepuce is so forcefully retracted that it gets stuck
permanently under the corona glandis [?], the boy is lufunu (boy with nude glans), and might not get married or have
satisfactory sexual relations. As in the Senegalese (®Senegal) ,
erections are provoked, and medicines are used to combat assumed impotence when
the penis remains flaccid. Children
sleep with parents, but "à partir du moment où il osera se tenir éveillé au
moment où Vénus couvre ses parent de son étreinte, on l'estimera devenu trop
grand pour rester avec eux"; the child is then to sleep with his grandparents. Genitals are involved in verbal play with adults. From age five or
six until age 11 or 12, children play "kitchen" with coitus: "Parfois on les
surprend, derrière la maison, imitant innocement la copulation adulte... En règle générale, les parents s'amusent
de ces jeux enfantins. [...] L'attitude des parents est tolérante, permissive.
Bien plus, ils n'hésiteront pas à y inciter, le moment venu, ceux de leurs
enfants qui sembleraient manifester peu d'anthousiasme ou une certaine
inhibition" (p9, 24). Various games include sexual
elements: Nambushi (Mother of Goats),
Mwingilo wa nsenshi, and Sale sale kinkamba (Everone is to Choose
whom he Pleases). The classic marital game, in the form of play villages, is
called mansansa (p26); there they may
"[...] imitent la vie conjungale sous le regard lointain, mais amusé des
At puberty, boys use numerous plants to
prepare genitals to insure glandular function, provocation of spermarche,
penile enlargement, and erectile potency. Implicitly, masturbation is involved,
and contests are held. Boys also use love cosmetics, practice voyeuristic acts,
and "attack girls" whom they are not to deflower. Girls practice artificial
elongation of the minor labia (kukuna),
and enlargement of the aditus vaginae to the size of a normal penis, sometimes
using a dildoe. Mutual masturbation may be involved, and practices are done en groupe. She must not overdo this, for
else she will experience marital difficulties. During the Kisungu ritual, further pharmacology is practised to ensure
fertility. In the early forties, 12 to 15-year-olds invented a secret language
to exchange vulgarities and to practice coprolalia.
Anecdotal material was collected by (Erny,
observed boys aged 5 to 7 performing coitus with girls, demonstrating a wealth
"Van de jongens
boven de tien kan men zeggen dat zij steeds minder met meisjes speelden, maar
op andere wijze contact zochten. De eerste vrijages en homakerij, waarvan
sommigen hoog opgaven, vonden plaats of deze leeftijd. Al veel eerder waren
jongens op de hoogte van de betekenis van hun sexe. Zij wisten feilloos
waarvoor de sexeverschillen bedoeld waren en toonden zich geheel vertrouwd met
hun toekkomstige rol. Twee novieten van vijf en zeven jaar gaven eens een
demonstratie van geslachtsgemeenschap die een grondige kennis verrried. Een
jongen van drie jaar riep bij het aanschouwen van de ronde vormen van een
speelgoedzwaan van onze zoon: "Kijk eens, zij is zwanger!".
In the Uganda protectorate, "[a]t any stage
of its infant life a child may be betrothed to some other infant or to one many
years older than itself" (Kitching, 1912:p173).
In one study, coitarche occurred at age
seven to nine in 23% of boys and 8% of girls; by age twelve, 64% of boys and
76% of girls had had intercourse. Another study
among school students found that "[a]mong
girls, the earliest reported age for initiation of sexual intercourse was eight
years, but the mean age for first sexual intercourse was 16.1 years for boys
and 16.6 years for girls".
Fifteen percent practised labial
elongation, while about a quarter indicated they had not heard about it at all
In one study (Turyasingura, 1989),
coitarche occurred at age 15. In another (Kahazura, 1991),
coitarche occurred at age 13.6 (non-school group), and 14.4 (students); the
lowest age encountered was nine. A 1988/9 survey among 15-24-year-old Ugandans
found that the mean age of first coitus was 15.1 among males and 15.5 among
females (Agyei and Epema, 1992).
In one study of 86 patients with acute
PID (Grech et al., 1973),
48% claimed to have begun sexual intercourse at age fourteen or earlier. In a
study reported by Arya and Bennett (1968),
the first sexual experience occurred before age ten in 8% of Uganda college
students. In a recent study (Stewart, 2000),
first penetrative coitus was to occur at ages 15.4 (girls) and 15.0 (boys).
Among the Uganda Bamba (Bundibugyo
district), a boy is not allowed to engage in sex before circumcision (Standing
and Kisekka, 1989:p218).
effect of the mass-mediated technologies is a breakdown and rearrangement of
social categories, or as Lawrence Birken (1988)
observes a "democratization of sexual information", in which a genderless and
ageless public consumes an abundance of images. In Uganda, this has meant that
sexual learning, which was provided by the paternal aunt and uncle, shifted
from the kin networks to the public sphere, causing further stain on an already
fading system of sex education of youth".
In a study (Bohmer and Kirumira, 2000)
among out of school 12-19 year olds, it was found that sexual information may
be derived from a multitude of sources, including overhearing adult
conversation or activities.
(14-16 years) and males (17-19 years) said that sexual activity begins between
ages 12-16, males (17-19 years) reported that younger boys these days start
earlier (i.e., age 12) than they themselves did (average of 14.5). Younger boys
(12-13) expressed the view that sexual activity begins much earlier (ages
ranged from 4 to 18), although they often spoke about both sexual play that
occurs among children in addition to full sexual intercourse. Some boys believe
that sexual intercourse takes place as early as 6-10 years, while others said
that mature sexual relationships for males occur between 15-17 years when one
is capable of sexually satisfying his partner. Thus, some males make a
distinction between full sexual intercourse and less mature relationships where
a boy is not yet capable of satisfying his partner […]. With regard to ages of
sexual initiation for females, a third of boys in the 12-13 year group believed
that females begin having sex as young as 4-6 years, although they felt that
waiting until 13 years would be more appropriate. Males from both older and
younger age groups felt that partnerships with younger girls are best as one
does not need to worry about satisfying them sexually and as an older female
may "lure them into sex" ".
"Girls in the 12-13 year group said that
most often money or clothes entice girls to have sex with "big men". A married
woman would argue: "And once the breasts come, she catches a boss. She does not
go in for her age mates". Boys were ambivalent to age disparate contacts with
adult females. The actual incidence does not become apparent.
[Additional refs.: Nyanzi, S., Pool, R. & Kinsman, J. (2001) The
negotiation of sexual relationships among school pupils in south-western
Uganda, AIDS-Care 13,1:83-98]
"Usually marriage negotiations are
entered into only when all the parents concerned have indicated their approval.
Already when she is between seven and ten years a girl may be given a bracelet
as a sign of engagement. From then onwards she is watched by her future
husband, e.g., to prevent her from meeting other boys" (Heine, 1985:p11).
"The sexual activities of members of
proximate generations, particularly kin and affines, must not be brought into
contact. Household arrangements bring this out clearly; there is no extended
domestic group. No Gisu may sleep in the paternal hut after puberty".
Among the Acholi (Gulu district,
Uganda), "[i]mpotence is attributed to violation of a taboo which forbids
mothers to touch a baby's penis within the first three days of its life
(Standing and Kisekka, 1989:p213).
provides a discussion of the love trajectories of Acholi youth consisting of
boys "shooting" or selecting previously unacquainted girls, girls initially (as
a rule, incessantly) declining proposals, the start of a "love debate" that may
take months. Regardless of age, unmarried men and spinsters had no social
status. After a ring token has been "given to" (won by) the male, he might
introduce her to the bachelor's hut, to which she may be pressured by her
mother, to find out whether he is "alive": "If for some reason boy cannot or
does not sleep with girl, then boy is not sexually fit. […] and that is the end
of the affair between the two". Pre-pregnancy congress was severely (lethally,
"Girls of about eight cut scars on their
bodies in rows extending from just below the ribs to the abdomen and raise keloids,
which are considered sexually exciting to their lovers later on (Goldschmidt,
play of children indicates the early adaptation of sex-related social roles;
"they also indulge in sex play" (p265). After 1930, sex was a "major occupation"
for adolescents, although pregnancy before circumcision is still considered
very bad (p204).
According to Roscoe (1907:p104),
both sexes of the Bahima tribe are betrothed "whilst they are quite young; the
mother has the care of the girls and keeps strict watch over them so that they
may grow up pure. Girls are therefore in constant attendance upon their mother;
is she goes away from home to visit relations, the daughter goes too".
Consummation occurs three days after marriage, the date of which is not
elaborated upon (p105).
"Hima girls are kept very strictly chaste
until marriage […]", although until age six the sexes are free to mix (Elam,
and "[…] from her first infant steps a Hima girl is oriented toward marriage".
"Among the ordinary Bahuma or pastoral people children are usually betrothed in infancy. They may
be neighbours and play together without any knowledge of their future relation
to each other until they are old enough to marry". At marriage, the date of
which is not elaborated upon, the girl "is accompanied by a paternal aunt, who
stays with the newly-married couple any time from two days to a month and
shares their bed; may, if the bride is young and timid, it is their aunt's duty
to supply her place in the arms of the bridegroom. […] Among the agricultural
people the practice of betrothal in infancy appears not to be in vogue". The bride's sister remains with her for a
month after marriage "and often sleeps on the same bed' (p184-5).
"No specific training or instruction is
given children, except in manners. A little girl is taught how to sit modestly
[…]. A girl's sex attitudes are developed quite early. Her first lesson is in
sitting modestly. She is forced to change many of her ways with the approach of
puberty. […] Her father and brothers chaperon her rigidly. All this in
preparation for marriage to a total stranger, involving a disagreeable,
lengthy, and very trying ceremony culminating in institutionalized rape. The
boys' introduction to sex is quite different. It is casual and gradual" (Edel,
However, children's play activities are not interfered with.
Mean age of marriage is 18 for men,
after puberty for women. Pregnancy is expected within one year of the marriage
ceremony (Okello, 1951).
"Mothers are very anxious to observe penile erections of their sons to assure
themselves that the little ones are potent. Should erections be absent on
several mornings, not only the mother but also the father will begin to search
for a remedy. […] Young boys of twelve begin to acquire sexual experiences as
they begin to associate with their older siblings or friends. Play begins with
imitating marriage arrangements when boys are out in the bush herding goats or
cows with girls".
Bwamba boys were not allowed to engage
in sex before circumcision (Kissekka, 1973).
observes that "[…] wives are usually obtained by exchanging the girls of three
or four years of age of one family for those of another" (p522). The girl is
chosen, but effects some influence in mate selection. When married, "[f]ree sexual intercourse is a very common
occurrence" ("men seize young girls and drag them off to their huts where they
stay for three or four days, after which they return" as "temporary wives")
provided that the female is willing. "It is said that fathers urge their girls
to seek intercourse with men when a proper opportunity presents itself. If as a
result of such intercourse a child is born, the man must make a present to the
girl's father, thus buying the child, and the girl must return to her father as
soon as the child can be left" (p523).
Laughlin and Laughlin (1973:p353)
state: "Children engage in sex play from an early age". Girls learn about menarche
from peers, or from their mothers (only one in five).
"Ganda mothers discourage infantile
masturbation, if indeed they notice it and acknowledge its occurrence. All the
mothers of babies who were reported to have masturbated took action to stop it,
although only two "beat" the baby" (see Ainsworth, 1967:p113-4).
This was also noted in case studies (Juko, Muhamidi). 14/21 mothers denied even
mere genital touching in their infants. The child, however young, should not
witness sexual relations between his parents.
"The small Uganda boys display their sexual
curiosity in a popular song they sing at passing girls: "I'd like your vagina,
A shilling for a vagina!" (De
Rachewiltz (1963 [1964:p230]).
"People said that many girls start having sexual relations as soon as they are capable".
Also, "[b]oys are not explicitly allowed to have sexual intercourse at any
particular age […]. So far as I know all […] boys [other than the very devout
Christians] try to have sexual relations as soon as they are physically able,
and to judge from what most people say, most of them succeed". There is no male
initiation or circumcision. Premarital chastity (marriage for girls at age 15)
was becoming less common at the time of writing, found Nsimbi (1956).
Male youths dwell in separate residences, and girls receive sexual instruction
from the father's sister (Weeks, 1973).
In a study of 177 school boys aged 14-17, 43% of Baganda boys had had sexual
intercourse. "The age
of [Baganda] girls and young women is told by the size of the breasts; after attaining
their full growth they begin to hang down; this is considered most becoming by
young women, and to attain this end they often tie them down to hasten natural
development" (Roscoe, 1902:p72).
Kinsman et al. (2000)
provided an interview based study of Baganda adolescent sexual socialisation.
In rural Masaka, parental coitus is observed by children due to the narrow
living confinements. Weddings, commonly
identified as sexarchic events, provide another opportunity; apart from
hide-and-seek and "mother and father", weddings games are played where the
children "smooch or fondle each other". A boy:
"If you look at it
critically, this thing is in the blood. God created it in us. For example you
might watch a young kid that only crawls touching funny areas and covering them
shyly. That thing is in the blood".
Sex, however, is rarely discussed by
parents, and peers provide the main source of intelligence. The paternal aunt (ssenga, senga) traditionally provided information on female hygiene and
sexual submission (cf. Kisekka, 1973:p45;
Davis, 2000:p35-6, 49-50; also Muyindaet al., 2001;
The ssenga oversaw labial elongation (okusika enfuli) in "early adolescence", aimed to enhance attractiveness and coital
pleasure. A woman
not "elongated" (kiwowongole;
kifufunkuli, funkuli muwompogoma) was sent back to her parents with disgrace, when about to be
married. Ssenga's instruction is declining and would come too late nowadays,
according to girls. A positive attitude towards nonvirgins opposes a negative
attitude towards virgins. Illustratively, a girl's magazine is called Ssenga. Older men or teachers have
previously been noted to initiate some adolescent girls in "early" sexual
activity" (Twa-Twa[a], 1997:p68, Kinsman et al., 1999:p598).
[Additional refs. : Roscoe (1911)].
stated that family, and sexual, matters were dealt with naturally, so that the
children became acquainted with these phenomena at an early age. "Fünfjährige
Jungen haben mir die Inhaltreichsten Märchen geschriben- leider folgt auf diese
vorzeitige Entwicklung im zwölften oder dreizehnten Lebensjahre ein volkommener
Stillstand, herbeigeführt durch Genuss geistiger Getränke und frühe Ausübung
Lugbara (Lugbari, Lugwari, Laccara, Logbwari, Lugbwara, Louagonare,
Lubare, Lugori, Lugwaret) (Uganda) [up] [Contents] [Geographic Index] [Ethnographic
Middleton (1973:p292, 294-5):
"Groups of sisters begin to accept lovers from about the age of 10 until their
marriages three or four years later. They sleep at night in a special girls'
hut under the care of an old widow and receive boys for whom they "place their
arms" ". Intercourse is formally forbidden.
"Boys marry, if rich, at puberty; if poor, later. Girls may be
pledged (betrothed before puberty in respect of a debt which the father has
contracted, in which case if she is willing, on reaching a marriageable age he
gives her to the creditor's son". Before marriage, "[…] there is some looseness
amongst themselves, though there is a fine of a goat or a hen for any lapse
discovered" (McConnell, 1925).
"Jie boys seem to begin having sexual
relations in their teens" (Lamphear, 1973:p370).
No data on childhood.
"At present, a boy's heterosexual
activities begin at the age of 12 to 15 when he builds a bachelor hut […].
Until this time, sexual activities will consist primarily of masturbation,
practised either singly or in groups, but we have no information on its
frequency" (Karp and Karp, 1973:p392-3).
The hut is shared with younger brothers and sisters, which "may very well
constitute a learning experience for them".
Kenya: "The degree to which an older boy
may "play sex," as youth slang puts it, depends upon social custom. An uncircumcized
Nandi boy rarely has an opportunity for intercourse, due to the strict controls
of the warrior age set. Maragoli girls often participate in sex play with boys,
although intercourse does not take place until after puberty. The Kisii tolerate extensive sex play
among smaller children, although shame taboos require that after about age 7,
such activities are not to be seen by parents" (Brockman, 1997).
"Western influences have rendered many of these customs invalid". Also,
"[c]ertain types of same-sex activity were tolerated in tribal tradition, but
only as childish behaviors unworthy of an initiate".
In Kenya (Ajayi et al., 1991),
the mean age of coitarche for student males aged 12-15 is 12.1; for female
students, it is 11.6. According to a 1989
mean age of first "sex" was 13 years among sexually experienced males, compared
with almost 16 years among females.
Another study found that a majority sexually experienced girls (some quarter of
secondary school girls aged 12 to 19) had started coitus within one to two
years of attaining menarche or having a boyfriend.
Female circumcision is still practised
among the Kuria, Suba, Meru and Abagusii (Gwako, 1995).
Administrators in the politically peripheral area of Meru vitiated the policy
of criminalising clitoridectomy by enforcing initiation at an earlier age in
order to combat abortion. European officers believed that in transforming the
prenuptial process of female initiation into a prepubescent rite, they could
eradicate unwanted pregnancies and abortions by eliminating the period when
sexually mature (but unexcised) girls were "customarily" prohibited from
conceiving and giving birth (Thomas, 1998).
In April 1956 the Njuri Ncheke, a
council of male elders officially recognised by the colonial administrators in
the Meru district of Kenya, banned clitoridectomy. In response to "this novel
intrusion of men into female initiation ceremonies" customarily in women's
hands, Meru girls participated in Ngaitana,
self-circumcision groups (Thomas, 1996).
Based on oral interviews, it was determined that as late as 1972 60% of the
girls in one area had undergone circumcision (Murray, 1976).
"Many communities also believe that circumcision helps girls to remain virgins.
Often men who support the idea say the practice represses, the sexual desire of
women and is a way of curbing promiscuity. […] Research carried out by the
Programs for Appropriate Technology in Health says the practice gives some
Kenyan girls the courage to have early sex as a test of their womanhood".
Among the Abagusii, the 19th century
scheduling of the operation at age 10-11 has been revised, presumably in regard
to the (rare) practice of pubescent marriage; it is now practised at age 6-8.
For an overview of boy's initiation
ceremonies, see De Wolf (1973).
of the customary laws in Kenya specify a minimum age at which persons become
legally capable of entering into marriage. In general, however, female genital
mutilation is a prerequisite to marriage, although many ethnic groups no longer
apply this requirement. Certain ethnic groups, including the Kikuyu, also
require women to have passed their first menstrual period before marriage".
Kiragu and Zabin (1993)
found mean ages for sexual intercourse of 11.9 (Ms) and 12.5 (Fs) among
[sexually experienced] primary school students (mean ages 14.6/F to 15.0/M). In
Nairobi, the median age at first intercourse was 15 years for slum residents
and 18 years for non-slum residents.
"Cramped living quarters in slums expose children to the sexual behavior of
their parents at an early age. Many people in focus groups identified this
early sexual socialization as a cause for relatively early sexual initiation. A
female service provider stated, "You see, these houses of ours are small and
children see a lot of wonders. That is why you see a child of 13 years
pregnant. It is because the parent [had sex]. She saw, and went and tried it
with a boy" ". According to Mbevi,
child marriage was once customary in Kenya, though dying out at the time of
Polyethnic data on the sexual education of girls in
Kenya were collected by Wamahiu et al. (1992)
using unstructured interviews with boys and girls aged 12-18. In Mombasa,
"[k]nowledge about physical maturity, sex and cleanliness are generally picked
up from older siblings and friends"; in school, the subject would be too
"[…] there is no [school-based]
curriculum for sex education. […] Sex instruction does not often come from
parents. In the presence of their children, they are expected to avoid any
words, acts, or gestures of a sexual nature. The rules of shame might allow
openness about sexual matters with a grandparent, however, and among the Kisii
a grandmother could be the confidant of her grandchildren on their sexual
experiences. A small child will remain with its mother until about age 7. At
this point, in some tribes, boys move in with their father or older boys. In
other groups (Maragoli and Luo) both boys and girls go into separate huts with
older children or into the homes of an elderly couple. These village
dormitories provide socialization, sex education, and opportunities for sexual
experimentation. The last is conducted in secret, although girls often "fail to
notice" a youth visiting in the girls' dormitory. Two lovers might also go into
the bush. A father and older sons might build a private hut for a son who
reached puberty, especially since initiation ceremonies might be held only
every few years. Under these circumstances, young men have free rein to engage
in sexual activities. In slang, these huts are sometimes referred to as "the
office," and "going to the office" means having a girl over for sex.
These patterns of sex education
have continued into present-day society, where studies show that parents are a negligible
source of information, while 31 percent of girls and 38 percent of boys
indicate teachers as the most important source. This does not reflect organized
sex education in the schools, but the influence of proctors and teachers in
Two 1987 studies reported age at first
sexual intercourse to be 14 in the cities, and 13.7 for boys and 14.8 for girls
in the rural areas. About homosexuality, it is stated:
"Certain types of same-sex
activity were tolerated in tribal tradition, but only as childish behaviors
unworthy of an initiate. In tribes where initiation involves long periods of
separation from female contact along with powerful emphasis on male group
bonding (Maasai), situational homosexuality is not uncommon. When limited to
mutual self-pleasuring, it is regarded as merely unmanly. Oral or anal
intercourse can, however, result in expulsion from the age set, severe
beatings, and disgrace. One finds some nonpenetrative homosexual behavior among
Maasai askaris (guards) who have
migrated to Nairobi or the coast. Urban poverty has created an underclass of
abandoned street youth, almost all male, ranging in age from 7 to late teens.
These "parking boys" survive by protecting parking spots, begging, petty crime,
and scrounging for garbage. Though the older protect the younger, situational
homosexuality is normative".
Girls children of Islamic or customary
marriages in Kenya can be legally married off by their guardian before puberty
(Mucai-Kattambo, et al., 1995).
The girl then has the right to repudiate the marriage upon reaching puberty;
the practice is diminishing.
[Additional refs.: Mensch, B. S. & Lloyd, C. B. (1998) Gender
Differences in the Schooling Experiences of Adolescents in Low-Income
Countries: The Case of Kenya, Stud Fam
Plann 29,2:167-84; Toroitich-Ruto, C. (1997) The Determinants of
Teenage Sexuality and their Understanding of STDs/HIV/AIDS in Kenya, UAPS J
12,2 at http://www.uaps.org/journal/journal12v2/The_Determinants_of_Teenage_Sexuality.htm]
Betrothal takes place in childhood,
marriage is to await puberty and initiation (Prins, 1952:p23).
Sexual relations are sanctioned before payment, but apparently not between
future spouses. "Promiscuous intercourse of the sexes while immature is said to
be disapproved of" (ibid., referring
to Fischer, 1878-9:p27).
speaks of the decline of the rigi
initiation for males (average 14/15, with a wide range), including "basic
sexual lore", and courting of girls according to a set of rigid rules,
including coital taboo. A woman would be married within a year or two of her
reaching puberty, lest "her blood may dry"; virginity was valued (p102).
The age of sexual operations varied
considerably, but usually occurred between 12 and 16 for boys, a little later
for girls (Browne, 1913:p137).
"Considerable, if not complete, sexual licence" is allowed after circumcision
and labiectomy (p140). Before the operation a charm protected girls from
pregnancy, which after the ceremony is replaced by a fertility charm.
"In Lamu, marriages among the Afro-Arabs,
Hadrami, Bohra Indians, and ex-slaves are arranged by their parents. Afro-Arab,
Hadrami, and Indian girls are kept in seclusion after they reach puberty, and
when they go out they wear a builbui (chador-like black garment that covers
their entire body and includes a veil which they hold over their faces"
The Kore were not veiled, and courtship was a matter of the lovers. "The Kore
perform clitoridectomy on their girls at an early age- between one and three
Today, no sexual
instruction is given to girls prior to marriage.
"Girls learn details of what happens between a man and a woman from a classmate
who is already married and experiencing the range of marital relations. Though
I have not been personally privy to these conversations, as adolescents
respected me, I am told that this is often the most detailed and graphic
description of sexual activity girls are given. From any other quarter (e.g.,
grandparents, sisters-in-law, brother's wives, and so on) the discussion of
sexual activity happens after a girl is married and sexually active, rather
than before, in preparation. For boys, the most frequent mentors regarding
sexual behavior are peers, and reportedly, their interaction regarding these
matters is primarily based on hearsay, as is the sex talk among adolescents
everywhere. But as Kuria adolescents are increasingly exposed to information
about sexual activity from authorities such as radio, newspapers, and political
and civic leaders, sex talk increasingly involves the hazards of promiscuous
sexuality and the spread of disease, particularly of HIV-AIDS, although other
sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea, are significant ingredients
of the local sexual scene".
have their daughters circumcised when they are still premenstrual because they
fear their daughters becoming pregnant before circumcision, an unhappy
circumstance that led in the past to the girl's lifelong expulsion from the
community. Though no one interviewed remembered this actually happening, the
reason was given repeatedly, maybe because parents know that young people are
sexually active before they marry" […] An interesting caveat to the information
regarding sexual practices is that, though most women say they were not
sexually active until their marriage and that their marriage took place at the
age of eighteen, when asked at what age young women begin to have sex these
days, the modal answer was at twelve years (20% gave this age, 17% each gave
fourteen and fifteen each, with thirteen being the fourth most frequently given
response at 15%)".
Though not an obvious inclusion, Ford and
Beach (1951:p188) listed the Masai as "permissive". They (p182) state also that
intercourse is forbidden until puberty ceremonies. As excepted from Saitoti:
" "Are you orkirekenyi?" one
of my brothers asked. I quickly replied no, and there was laughter. Orkirekeryi
is a person who has transgressed sexually. For you must not have sexual
intercourse with any circumcised woman before you yourself are circumcised. You
must wait until you are circumcised. If you have not waited, you will be fined.
Your father, mother, and the circumciser will take a cow from you as
Jacobs (1973:p402, 404)
agrees that, as for boys, "female children are prohibited from engaging in
sexual intercourse, and it is not until a girl completes her tribal initiation
ceremony (clitoris sub-incision) ceremony that she can marry and have
intercourse with her husband or his age mates". However, the Tanzania Parakuyo are said to believe that the
breasts of a girl can only develop when a man has had sex with her (Von
Mitzlaff, 1988 [1994:p80]).
The exception seemed to have confirmed the
rule. Also, Hollis (1910:p479)
referred to "the sexual intercourse of warriors with immature girls [ditos]", in which the rules of
consanguinity and affinity that regulate marriage are equally observed. This is
also noted by Hinde and Hinde (1901:p68, 73).
A warrior chooses a dito he fancies,
and makes her mother a great many presents, but since it is not a marriage he
gives neither cattle or goats. Equally, Johnston (1902, II:p824)
wrote that Masai girls aged 8 to 13 are picked out by young warriors, after
which they have intercourse, "which is considered in no way to be immoral ,
because the girls are under age, and therefore cannot conceive". A contemporary
source similarly relates that
"[t]he entito, between
approximately 10-12 years and puberty associates and lives with the ilmurran
[warriors, from circumcision to well beyond marriageable age of 20-25] in their
settlements. She lives a rather free life sexually, living with the warriors as
sweethearts. Virginity is neither socially or culturally valued. A Maasai
girl's sexual activity begins long before she is clitoridectomized;
nevertheless she should not become pregnant prior to the operation. Usually
girls are operated on before their first menstruation. Maasai women are then
ready to marry after their clitoridectomy, but the ilmurran are debarred from
access to these women who are their contemporaries. These young women are
married off to men who are in the "elder" age group".
Also, "[g]irls are often promised in
marriage at a young age, even before their birth!". Leakey (1930:p197-8)
writes that Kenyan Masai girls of
brothers living in manyattas sleep
"from a very early age- long before puberty- on the same beds as couples
indulging in sexual intercourse; and even those girls who live in the home
villages learn all about such matters at a very early age owing to the fact
that they always sleep in their mother's bed. As soon as ever the first signs
of puberty are noticeable, girls may be asked by the warriors to sleep with
them, and the question of whether there is complete intercourse or not rests then
entirely with the girls. Moreover, the uninitiated boys, and especially those
who tour the villages as candidates for initiation, expect any young girls who
are not already attached to the warriors to sleep with them. In fact, we may
say that for the girls sex life starts before puberty and continues (with no
such period of sexual prohibition as the boys have during the novice stage)
until they are initiated". Thus, Masai coitarche seems to be early.
Merker ([1910:p65, n])
briefly states: "Boys and girls already begin to practice cohabitation at the
age of eight to ten".
Whereas Fosbrooke (1948)
noted that "prior to circumcision no youth may have intercourse with a
circumcised woman. This is a rule most strictly adhered to", Fox (1930:p448)
notes that the harsh punishment of sexual intercourse with a girl of any sort "is no longer the case,
probably because the warriors are afraid of Government interference should they
ill-treat the boys". Bagge (1904:p169)
confirms what is suspected: "No circumcised youth is permitted to have
connection with a circumcised woman, but no objection exists to his having
connection with any uncircumcised girl".
noted: "A man's sex-life begins when he has been circumcised; a girl's when she
reaches puberty". However, "[i]nitiation is often delayed until some little
time after puberty, and it is not considered in any way wrong for these boys to
begin indulging sexually as soon as they like, provided that they observe certain
restrictions. They may do as they like with the younger girls in the
neighbouring villages, provided, of course, that they observe the law
forbidding sexual relations with any member of their own sub-clan, and also
provided they avoid such young girls as are attached to men in the warrior
classes. That these young uninitiated lads even try to have intercourse with
married women is certain, as there is a special penalty provided for women who
so debase themselves" (Leakey, 1930:p187-8). Uncircumcised boys are not
permitted to have sexual relationships with the opposite sex in spite of the
fact that many of them reach sexual maturity well ahead of their circumcision.
But uncircumcised girls of similar ages are at the disposal of warriors who
associate sexually with premature girls from ten years upwards (Talle, 1983).
It is believed that the semen of the warrior helps and "is in fact almost a
prerequisite for the development of a girl's breasts" (ibid.). Mann et al. (1966)
also state that pre-initiation intercourse was not allowed, the ceremonies
being held at age 8-12 (girls) and 12-15 (boys). In the former report, the age
of marriage for girls was given at 10-14, but males do not get married until
age 30 (cf. Weiß, op.cit., p382).
Thus, an extreme stratification by age
dominated Masai sexarche. The Masai practiced foetal and infant betrothal.
[Additional refs.: Bergsjo (1994);
Morley, D. (1991) Kenya: Maasai warriors and their sexual partners, Lancet,
3/16/91; 337(8742):667; Kenya: Boarding School Offers New Life for Masai Child
Brides, Women's International Network News, Winter 2001; 27,1:64].
An "off-shoot" of the Masai, among the
N'Jemp, as observed by Denis (1967 [1966:p166-71]),
children "lead an almost idyllic life", "free to play whatever sexual games
they please among themselves, and it is not until the age of twelve of
thereabouts that life starts in earnest", at which age he is made a moran, junior warrior. As the Masai,
these warriors sleep in a communal hut, manyatta, and have restricted sexual
intercourse, ombani na ngweko, or "platonic love and fondling", heavy petting.
The practice "is something that develops naturally out of the permissive
behaviour between the sexes in late childhood", and is considered " "the
foundation stone of morality since it produces a race free from nervous and
psychic maladjustments" ". The permissiveness only applies within the same age
group, married women being taboo for the juniors.
Ariaal culture is regulated by an elaborate
age-set system (Roth et al., 2001).
Marriage occurs after an 11-year period of warriorhood, which starts with
circumcision. Warriors and "beaded" (unmarried) girls engage in long-term
sexual relationships (nkeryi),
marriage does not usually follow, procreation is severely discouraged, but full
intercourse is expected. "In Ariaal culture, sexual imbalances begin with the nkeryi tradition, as very young girls
(our survey includes girls as young as 10-12) are beaded to and begin sexual
relationships with much older warriors. In addition, informants stated that
warriors frequently have sex with their age-mates' nkeryi, and that such sexual sharing is culturally condoned" (p39).
The age of being beaded was lower for uneducated as opposed to educated girls.
Peers, and not parents, were sources of sexological knowledge.
"The boys and girls play "father, mother and children" together. They build
small huts of grass and imitate grown-ups, an imitation which is sometimes so
carefully done that not even the sexual part of marriage is omitted. As is well
known, such things cease to be a mystery to children of primitive people at a
very early age". Ndeti (1973:p109)
adds that the "period before puberty is characterized by very little sex
education and sexual differentiation. Perhaps there is no need for this because
sex roles are defined fairly early in life". Girls are instructed at menarche
by the mother or, in most cases, the grandmother. At this time, they may be
ritually deflowered by a stick, while boys receive additional genital surgery
beyond the circumcision they had at a younger age (Nida, 1962).
notes that "[s]ex education was the responsibility of the parents and, [in the
case of girls,] the mothers. Girls had to be brought up to know not only what
kind of people they should refrain from on the basis of sexual relations, but
also when and where not to have sexual contact. With their little biological
knowledge, they managed to train their girls to the best of their limited
ability; thereby training them for avoidance (breaking of sexual mores). As a
result, cases of incest and premarital births or even pregnancies were very,
very rare". The same could be true for boys. A girl was not desirable in
marriage until she has conceived (Eloit, 1:p125).
During the second of puberty rites (age 15 or so), boys perform symbolic sexual
acts on girls with special sticks (Mbiti, [1990:p121]). Marriage does not take
place after circumcision or menarche (Kyewalyanga, 1977:p42). Clitoridectomy is
practiced at ages unassociated with puberty, sometimes at age 4 or 5 (Middleton
and Kershaw, 1965:p80).
A man is not punished if he fornicates with a girl past puberty, even if part
of the bride price has been paid, provided no pregnancy results; if she is
prepubertal, he pays a goat. If he commits "unnatural" behaviour with a boy, a
rare thing among the Kamba, he pays a goat and a bull (Penwill, 1951:p73, 74,
Sexual intercourse before circumcision is prohibited
Sangree, 1966; Kertzer, 1978:p1092).At the night before circumcision, held
every five year, the initiand "is questioned in detail about any sexual
activity he may have either with other people or with animals. Sodomy and sexual
connexions with children animals are stringently forbidden everyone, while only
males who have been circumcised are permitted to have sexual intercourse with
mature females". When he confesses, he must pay a fine, under the threat that
he would bleed to death when circumcised if he had not done so (Sangree). The
taboo is not paralleled for females. "[…] the prevalent Tikiri view vis-à-vis
females on this score is comparable to that held in some of the rural and
isolated regions of the United States, which American wags have summed up as,
"If they're big enough, they're old enough". Intercourse with a girl who has
not started to menstruate or who has not yet developed her secondary sexual
characteristics is considered a serious and dangerous deviation from the
natural (luswa), and the man involved is regarded as the one primarily at
fault. Other than this no regularly maintained sanctions exist regulating the
time of a female's introduction to active heterosexuality" (p65).
The age of circumcision and labiotomy
varies greatly, but may be said to take place at about age 16 for both sexes.
Specific data on "instructions" are not given (Browne, 1915).
"Maragoli girls often participate in sex
play with boys, although intercourse does not take place until after puberty"
"Bei den Margoli heißt das Onanieren
der Mädchen "Kuikunda kitere" (d.h. Koitieren mit dem Finger), im Gegensatz zu
dem der Knaben "Kuueniola". In dieser Bezeichnung des Verbums ist die Technik
der weiblichen Masturbation angegeben" (Bryk, 1928:p118). Maragoli children sleep separated from the age of seven, boys in a
hut, girls with an elderly couple or widow/widower (Lukalo, 1973:p141).
From the age of eight, girls and boys may sleep in a dormitory. "The age when a
girl starts sexual relations is undefined. A girl was exposed to it the moment
spending the night in the dormitory with the others. Playing with boys of the
same age after dark (on the way to the dormitory) could have been the starting
point". "As in the case of girls, sexual relations for a boy could start during
puberty and, in some cases, even before, part of the impulse stemming from the
fact that today children share sleeping accommodation with parents".
Sex was to be kept secret, and done in the bush or girl's dormitory. The boy is
circumcised just after puberty, but has to await the "circle".
Female circumcision marked the cut-off
point between child and woman, signifying the transition from the state of
ignorance, inactivity, impotence, and asexuality into one of activity,
knowledge and reproduction (Mbiti, 1969:p123; Nelson, 1987:p221).
Kenyatta (1939 [1961:p159, 161]):
"[…] a Gikuyu man has been taught from childhood to develop the technique of
self-control in the matter of sex […] During early childhood parents talk
freely to their children explaining all matters connected with sexual taboos".
Pre-initiation masturbation is considered "right and proper"; afterwards, it is
said to be abandoned and referred to as a babyish habit. Girls are told it is
"wrong" (p162). Formalised sex instruction is offered to girls in an initiation
ceremony including circumcision (Leakey, 1931).
Occasional infant and child betrothal was
noted by (Routledge, 1910: p124-5).
stated that infant betrothal was common. Usually, however, the betrothal is a
girl's own affair.
Pre-Colonial Kikuyu were said to practice "incomplete sex play" known as ngwiko after initiation at puberty
Sexual intercourse is part of initiation ceremonies of
both boys and girls (Lambert, 1956:p54-5; see also p34-5).
For girls, it required full intercourse before nuptial age, "to be wiped clean
from the soot of the knife" (kuhuuruo
mbiro ya ruenji). It would take place before menarche (to avoid pregnancy),
and should lead to defloration (but not wholly, since virginity was valued
[!]). Elders say that girls got rid of their "initiation dirt" by intercourse
with immature and uninitiated boys (a heinous offence on the part of an
initiated girl except for this one purpose), who, not having reached the stage
when sex was socially important, would not suffer from the taint".
During the irua ceremony, relatives and friends of the novice sing about
sexual knowledge and the rules governing social relationships between men and
women to acquaint the initiates with their future adult roles (Kenyatta,
1938:p141). For the
ceremony, girls must be menarchal, and must not have had sexual intercourse or
experience with masturbation (Bunche, 1941:p).
The songs at the mugumo tree impart knowledge
about sexuality and how to comport oneself in sexual relationships.
Consummation of marriage was a
recognised event (Leakey, 1977 [II]:p381-3),
and there were routine instructions for brides and grooms (p786-8). Sexual
intercourse before initiation was strictly forbidden, and it was said it would
show after operation: the wounds would not heal properly (I, p398, 410). Taking
advantage of the few opportunities for breaking the rule we met by severe
beatings. Initiation age was lowered with the arrival of Europeans, from 17/18
to 14/15 (II, p587-8); girls were initiated at age 12 ("when their breasts were
only partially formed"), though elders indicated menarche age was lowered
compared to the old days. Ritual sexual intercourse is witnessed by the
initiates at various occasions.
Boys up to ages 14/15 were allowed to
play at mutual masturbation and sexual intercourse with girls (II, p584);
afterwards, it was forbidden out of fear that they would abuse little girls.
Big boys would have to settle with masturbation, sex with barren married women,
or with goats or sheep, the latter both being tabooed. Most 14/15 year olds
build huts proudly announced as their thingira
(men's hut), inviting boys and girls to
"play sexually in imitation of
their initiated brothers and sisters. As the parents were fully aware of what
went on and knew that these boys and girls would lie together, they constantly
warned them that in no circumstance were they to attempt to have actual sexual
intercourse, and that they had to content themselves with fondling and cuddling
each other. Occasionally a boy and girl would disobey this rule, and because of
this many mothers would regularly examine their daughters' genitalia. Knowledge
that there would be this examination from time to time was usually enough to
make the little girls careful to obey the rules laid down for them. They knew
that if they allowed the bigger boys to have full intercourse they would be
found out and severely punished. For their part the boys were constantly warned
that if they did more than simply play at sex, they would do themselves harm,
and that when they were circumcised they would not heal quickly. Naturally,
both boys and girls grew up with a considerable knowledge of sex, for in
addition to what they heard and saw of the behaviour of the grown-ups, they
were also taught a great deal by their parents when being told of the
prohibition against full intercourse" (II, p584-5).
Decline of the age-set system,
schooling, the gweko custom, and the
delay of integration of sex education has changed recent matters (Worthman and
Today, Ahlberg et al.
argue, circumcision still symbolises becoming a Kikuyu adult, it is now
performed in a clinic and no longer includes the ceremonies and open discourse
that formerly conveyed sexual knowledge combined with strict social controls
regulating sexual behaviour. The changes have resulted in "numerous
discrepancies between cognition and practice": although parents believe sexual
intercourse should be restricted to marriage, they have employed "a prohibitive
silence" that is misinterpreted by youth who have little reliable knowledge
about sexual matters.
states that boys of about 15 (after initiation) and girls of 12 will be preoccupied with seeking a mate.
Premarital courtship results in the adolescents sleeping together every night
in the singroina, or men's club. They
may sleep in their sibling's presence, but no intercourse is to take place
(p50). A virgin at initiation (variably scheduled at ages 14-20, but in former
years it could be as late as 30 for both sexes) is honoured; it was estimated
that half were indeed pergeyat
(virgin) at this time. Boys and girls practice an external form of intercourse
(p51). At initiation the boy is required to admit or deny repeatedly his coital
experiences, "[...] since an uncircumcised boy is said to soil all women with
whom he has had sexual intercourse, and to make them barren" (the Arap Mogoss trial, p10-2).
In times of famine, an infant girl may be
betrothed to a grown man (Kabwatereret,
p64-5). The children learn by imitation (p94), and most commonly play at house
building (p95-6), but no associations are made. "When they are old enough to
take interest in love-making [?], they are all seen together at their
meeting-places [...]" (p96). "Brothers and sisters, before having sweethearts,
sleep naked and close to each other in their own hut, away from any
supervision". No clear
pictures arises from this: "La faim, l'occasion, l'herbe tendre et, je pense,
quelque diable aussi le poussant". Orchardson (1930/1:p101)
states that the girl marries immediately after her circumcision,
and that the institution is consummated only when her mother has decided that she
is ready to cook for her husband.
Subincision is performed by Samburu
herdboys around age seven to ten (Margetts, 1960).
The boys operate on themselves, and sometimes on their peers. The operation is attributed
to custom, to efforts to differentiate the male urine stream from the female
(both sexes squat during micturation), and, according to five informants, to
make ejaculation faster. Later, circumcision follows. According to Spencer
play is punished severely, and the sexes are separated early. Homosexual
practices are an every-day occurrence at the cattle posts, and are regarded as
normal. Adolescent morans [warriors]
have mistresses who are invited to their clubs. A very strict intergenerational
avoidance is requested of the girl.
"The Kisii tolerate extensive sex play
among smaller children, although shame taboos require that after about age 7,
such activities are not to be seen by parents" (Brockman, 1997).
LeVine and LeVine (1963:p492)
noted the following verbalisation of Gusii parental conflict on boy's
heterosexual play: "I would cane him very badly; thinking, "After all, it is
the natural thing to do", but since I found them at it, I must cane severely".
Parental intercourse occurs only when children are supposed to sleep.
LeVine and LeVine (1981)
mentioned rape of prepubescent girls by adult men "who in many instances are
the classificatory parents". Mayer (1973:p132)
wrote: "Even little boys would play at "pretending to catch little girls".
Decency required that from about the age of seven they should not play sexually
in front of parents, or other abansoni
(respected people). They would have witnessed copulation of animals, if not
humans, and would have slept in the mother's bed until decency required them to
move to the grandmother's, or a saiga (boy's hut). Circumcision took place in
early puberty (13 to 15),
whereby the novices may be teased by girls exposing their genitals, causing
painful erections. The first formal sexual experience is usually after
initiation (girls: 8 to nine years; Boys: 10 to 12 years). Earlier intercourse
would be forbidden and punished (LeVine, 1959). Initiated girls, "as young as
they are, begin grooming themselves for marriage" (LeVine, 1959:p117).
The Gusii practice clitoridectomy and excision of the labia minora (Meschig et
Marriage does not take place after
circumcision or menarche (Kyewalyanga, 1977:p42).
Minturn and Lambert (1964:p247-8):
"One of the most serious offences
is for a boy to attack a girl who is not his sibling. Such attacks are regarded
as sexual in motivation even among young children. Preadolescent boys and girls
do indulge in sex play when adults are not around. When the girls approach
initiation they begin to spurn the advances of their male playmates, who are
still several years away of their initiation. The attacks of herd boys on these
girls are evidently the result, in part, of this rejection. One of the reasons
given by the girls for desiring to be initiated was to avoid these attacks,
since parents take strong action to stop attacks of uninitiated boys on
-- LeVine, R. A. (1963) Child rearing practices in sub-Saharan Africa:
an interim report, Bull Menn Clin
-- Schaeffner, A. (1953) Les rites de circonsion en pays
kissi, Étud Guinnéennes 12 [?]. Also cited by Erny
(1972 [1981:p61]) ]
"[…] among themselves an unmarried
woman who has reached the age of puberty may have as many friends as they call
them, as she likes, provided that they come from another clan; after marriage
she must confine her attentions to her husband" .
"Young Luo boys begin to experiment with sex when they are four to six years of
age, but their behaviour is severely criticized and restricted. As mobility is
limited, boys are first interested in girls who reside in the immediate
vicinity, and due to residential patterns, these girls are close relatives.
Sexual relations with them are incestuous and although this concept is not
immediately understood by a young boy, he quickly learns that they are not
"available sex playmates". If need be, a young boy will be sent to stay with a
relative to remove him from temptation of nearby female cousins or sisters.
Only after a boy becomes a youth, at the approximate age of 13 to 15 years, is
there opportunity for considerable contact with members of the opposite sex".
Luo boys are said to practice a preputial conditioning at the age of 10 to 12
Schoolgirls begin to take a great interest in romantic aspirations, and eagerly
await thelarche (Ominde, 1952).
The marital cycle "proceeding" to the act of childbearing, is imitated (p31).
Genitals are compared, and "something approaching a crude sexual intercourse"
takes place when older members of the family are absent. During the period when
the crops are ripening these older children, sometimes accompanied by younger
ones who act as sentries, disappear into the cornfields to carry out this
practice". The parental reaction is one of reproach and restriction. Before age
eleven, restrictions of exogamy are suggested to the girls. The girls learn
from the coquetry and customs of more mature girls with whom they sleep. Sexual
instruction for girls took place within the swindhe,
a form of communal living (Cohen and Odhiambo, 1989).
Child betrothal (p92) or marriage (p117)
may take place (Wilson, 1961),
but this seems a peripheral custom. Child marriage (nyar osiep) includes marriage ceremonies without consummation (cf.,
An uncircumcised Nandi boy rarely has an
opportunity for intercourse, due to the strict controls of the warrior age set
Nandi boys thus practice masturbation (De Rachewiltz (1963 [1964:p151]). Bryk
"It is common practice among the
Nandi for the boys to smear sticky, milky juice of the euphorbiaceous plant yeptiringuet on the glans and to
masturbate (lat pertit)with it. The juice of this plant is
quite caustic and causes the glans to swell up strongly, so that the foreskin
can easily be drawn back; which is what is wanted. During the process the boys
call out, "Suren suren, ce kwamon pek a
metet" (Become big and I'll give you something to eat). The blossoms of
this plant are usually stuck into the hair, the separated milk serving as the
agglutinant. Now the little fellow can go to a girl and try it".
states that "a boy's sex life begins as soon as he has emerged from the
seclusion of circumcision (kakoman tum)
and a girl's when she reaches the age of puberty, i.e. about twelve. Girls do
not normally begin younger; but boys, who sometimes may not be circumcised
until they have reached the age of 17, 18, or even 20, often do, though they
are not supposed to do so, and must make love in secret, risking punishment
from the warriors if caught". A favourite game played by small children is
house-keeping, an openly performed mock marriage, "but often a sexual element
enters into the game which must be kept secret. For this they go into the
bushes and play with each other, imitating as far as they can the actions they
have seen and heard performed in their parent's hut at night. The parents of
course know that such things are done, but they do not seek for offenders, and
only if actually caught would a boy be slapped by his parent, with an
admonition to mind what he did or he would have the warriors after him". A
circumcised boy may have intercourse with uninitiated girls, who form lasting
couples (mureret-sandet, beloved-lover).
The boy may, first at age 7 or 8, find himself in various configurations of
sleeping naked in the same bed as naked girls their age. The close and unfair
competition for girls is illustrated when a warrior is also present, and the
boy may attempt to cor tipik "steal
girls" by pressing himself as close to the girl's back as he can when the
warrior is asleep.
girl often allows this, though she dare not turn toward the boy for fear of
disturbing the warrior. The warriors of course know that this goes on, since
they have all done it themselves, but as long as they do not actually see or
feel anything they take no notice. But if the boy should forget himself and
move too much, he is likely to pay for his fun with a sore back".
Langley (1979:p46, 71)
states that in former days a boy's sex life began at the end of initiation
(circumcision), which may be as late as at age 25. At the time of writing, boys
were entitled to sexual (intercrural) intercourse with uncircumcised girls at
age 15. Thus, "[s]eduction of an uninitiated girl was not a tort provided
pregnancy did not ensue […]" (Snell, 1954:p31).
Long before initiation (about age 14), and
beginning when the girls are about ten years old, they must obligatory life in
a mixed gender places called sikiroino,
an institution meant "to teach the girls how to behave towards men and how to
control their sexual desires. No sexual intercourse is permitted when the boys
and girls sleep in this way. At a later stage the girls would be examined for
virginity, and it is great shame and anger to the girls and their parents if
any are found to have lost their virginity. In some cases such girls would be
speared to death; while virgin ones would receive gifts of cows and sheep"
Mbiti, [1990:p124]). After clitoridectomy, during seclusion, sexual instruction
takes place, including "how to sleep with their husbands, when to refrain from
sexual intercourse during pregnancy and up to the time the child begins to
walk, how to be attractive wives, and how to bring up children".
Child marriage (Huntingford, 1953:p29)
may have been no more in 1973 (Langley, p72). A prepubertal girl could be tied
to a rich man; consummation is delayed until she is grown up (Huntingford,
Among the Nandi and Masai of the Uganda Protectorate, the younger
professional warriors, who live with immature girls as a regular and sanctioned
practice, can do so only until the girls attain the age of puberty. After
puberty the girls must either be married or sent home to their mothers"
[Additional refs.: Hollis
(1909:p16, 58);Cherotich, S. (1967) The Nandi female
initiation and marriage and christian impact on it, Dina Na Mila 2,2/3:67-77]
Kettel and Kettel (1973:p420):
"Uncircumcized boys should not engage in sexual intercourse, but they do so
frequently, usually from the age of 10 to 12, and there seems to be no
effective means of curtailing this activity, although those who are caught are
beaten". Uncircumcised boys are avoided by the women.
states that the Meru girl is taught about sex by her mother when young, and is
instructed about sex conduct when approaching puberty by her grandmother.
"Premarital sexual relations start quite early in life and apparently the
society encourages them by reprimanding those who insist on being virgins. Such
girls are mocked and penalized a goat at circumcision for being "too cowardly
to have their hymens broken". Sex life among boys and girls is regarded as
normal so long as they do not do it openly. Girls dance in the evening with
boys, they go to fetch firewood where they know boys are grazing the herds, and
each chooses the boy to "give her tobacco". Usually these boys are too young to
have ejaculation, and so do not have to worry about any pregnancy". A man is
not supposed to have an uncircumcised girl experience the pleasure of
ejaculation, and is urged to practice coitus interruptus. Boys aged 5 to 7
sleep with their grandfathers or in the junior boy's hut (gam ya ncuna); later they live in the boy's hut (gam ya runge). Senior boys (before
circumcision) "have some sexual relation with young girls, usually the ones who
have not reached puberty", as determined by menarche. Older girls were also on
their agenda, but not without the competition of the circumcised.
Father Arnoux (1931:p348)
noted that due to the unclothed state of being, children "[…] se permettent
toute sorte de jeux indécents avec camarades des deux sexes, sans ressentir le
moindre remords". Maquet (1961:p78):
"The Ruanda thought that when the sex activity of an individual had begun, he
could legitimately expect an opportunity to enjoy intercourse as frequently as
was socially thought normal. Some parents were said to be severe towards sexual
play among children. When the latter indulged in imitation of adult relations,
in masturbation, and other manipulations, they were beaten and flogged. Others
were more permissive [Vincent]. Homosexuality was common among young Tutsi
being trained at court, and was almost exclusively ascribed to the lack of
De Smedt (1998)
speaks of "child" marriage in Ruanda refugee camps but implies early
adolescent marriage (girls: 13, boys: 14). Enry (1981, I:p35-7) relates that boys in their "second
childhood" [of three] are made to live with aunts or or grandparents in order
to prevent the sighting of parental intimacies. Nevertheless, "les
conversations et les jeux avec les aînés les instruisent sans retard". Many
forms of sexual games exist, including the Bantu "jeu des huttes", and even a
secret language exists to escape the surveillance of authorities. After
menarche, which may be as late as 17 or 18 (p37, n1), a stricter regimen is
practised. Rather than by parents, the age group assures sex communications.
Some autobiographies shed some light on these arguments (II, p409-18).
Mayr and Mayr-Knochel (1996:p29-30)
state that grandmothers may tease the little boy with his masculinity. Sexual
acts are free, when not compromising parents or overt masturbation. Children
build huts, and play husband and wife.
In a recent study
of Kigali street children (N=238, ages 6-20, median age 13 years, mostly
males), "a full 35 percent of those
under 10 were found to be sexually active".
Albert (1963; see p195)
noted that prepubertal sex play, even between siblings is not considered a
moral transgression, unlike premarital postpubertal play. Prepubertally, girls
mutually practice macronymphia. With the people of Rwanda and Burundi, Vincent
the following four stages of the evolution of infantile sexuality: (1) maternal
genital pacification; (2) the start of sexual games after the discontinuation
of primal scene exposure; (3) these games develop in sexual relations of
shepherd boys; and (4) an evolution toward masturbation and homosexuality just
before adolescence. Among the Tutsi, homosexuality among the young warriors is
a refined practice. The adults make fun of these practices but they certainly
condone them. As noted: "Parents will take pleasure in seeing their son engage
in sexual games with young girls, for that proves that he is normal, and that
he will be potent". Nobody worries about the sexual conduct of prepubertal
girls, but she is no longer considered free to go with the boys after menarche.
Masturbation is "almost obligatory": "a girl who does not masturbate becomes
everybody's laughing-stock, and acquires the reputation of not being able to
marry and procreate. The practice is seemingly fused with labial elongation,
considered necessary for enhancing sexual pleasure of her future husband, and
vaginal dilation facilitating delivery.
states that marriage occurred for girls at age 12 "or even younger, when they
attain puberty at an earlier date"; boys marry when they can pay the bride
Formerly, women were married at or near the
age of puberty, or three years before reproductive age (Geiger, 1987:p14).
In the highlands of Buha (Tanzania), virginity is highly appreciated, and girls
were well guarded by parents (Scherer, 1965:p41).
Boys secretly have coitus with widows, divorcees, and even married women, no
excluding the wives of brothers and fathers. Although girls do not marry until
puberty, menarche is not the main indicator for nuptial status: the appearance
of breasts and the competence in household duties are. Giving in marriage of an
immature girl (ukwenzeraza) is
considered a sign of extreme poverty and does not add to one's status in the
community. Immature girls could also be betrothed, but infant betrothal
occurred only in mock fashion. The marriage of an immature boy (barely ten) to
a grown woman was considered as a sign of prosperity, and occurred not seldom-
especially in former days- and was said to "make the boy grow up quickly".
In a study on medical students, covering 15
ethnic groups, Swift and Pendaeli (1974)
noted that formal instruction in sexual matters was reportedly uncommon for
males, with most of the information learned from peers or older siblings. Girls
were more likely to receive some formal teaching from older adult women, often
as part of a puberty ritual.
Traditional Tanzanian sex education was
reserved for the somo, ceremonial
leader, during the Unyago ritual
It is observed within three ethnic groups in Tanzania (Wapare, Wamera,
Wakaguru) and was said to include instruction of sexual, maternal and
This takes place at puberty, but the
customary three-month duration would not be compatible with scholastic
regulations and thus lead to prepubertal scheduling of the rite (age 7-8), at
least in one Town (Lindi). "What impact this may have is unclear, but it is
obvious that the girls are too young to comprehend much of the meaning of
initiation, and it may prematurely encourage them to take an interest in sexual
activity". Where the rites have withered away, "girls do not receive any
systematic instruction from reliable adult", although incidental initiatives
are noted. A detailed analysis of Tanzanian traditional sex education is
offered by Allen (2000),
additional to a survey of rites de
passage by Swantz (1966 ).
Teachings would include the idea that
female sexual pleasure is something that is given to males, in return for which
she should be paid something, so that young girls extramaritally exchanging
sexual services for a wage traditionally fell outside the locus of patriarchal
control (Mbilinyi, 1985:p115-6) .
noted that, through foreign institutions, "[f]amily life suddenly became some
sort of holy institution in which reproduction was to take place in the strict
intimacy of the conjugal bed, not to be discussed outside the bed. [...] A
distance was being created between parents and children based on the philosophy
that children are innocent creatures not to be spoiled by the knowledge of the
"facts of life" and who should certainly not to be bothered with the hard
realities and responsibilities of married life before it was considered their
time. [...] Family life education (including sex education) gradually
disappearing from the scene as something unnatural and unnecessary", a void not
initially filled by school education (Batwa, 1986).
Rajani and Kudrati (1994, 1996)
found that at Kuleana Tanzania street adolescents experienced very low
percentage of overt prostitution. Less than five percent, six cases, are
reported to have agreed to have sex with an adult with whom they were staying
the night. The children placed rape amongst manifestations of violence like
beatings, fights, being locked-up, and "never in the same cluster as
expressions of wanted sex". Anal sex, kunyenga, among boys was
often practised as an "initiation rite" (cf. Lockhart, 2002).
Anal sex also took place with younger boys to relieve "sexual tensions" by
playing with each other at night. Older boys, 14 - 17, engaged in vaginal sex
with street girls, this often represented power or being a "real man".
Median age at
first sexual intercourse for men aged 25-49 is 17.5; for females it is 16.8
Silberschmidt and Rasch (2001)
observed that older adolescent girls are normally seen as victims and easy
preys of (often older and married) men's sexual exploitation. However, the
article was to suggest that these girls are "not only victims but also willing
preys and active social agents engaging in high-risk sexual behaviour" with old
males (relationships called mpenzi).
In a study on 657 Tanzanian students, one
out of every four girls conceptualised menarche as a sign of injury or disease
while 10% of boys had similar feelings about spermarche.
In Islamic Pangani District, there is no
courting of unmarried women, and premarital sexuality is entirely banned
[Additional refs: Lugoe et al. (1996);
Matashaet al. (1998);
CRLP (2001) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their
Reproductive Lives: Anglophone Africa. Progress Report, p113-29]
Among the Washirazii / Wambwera Swahili in
Tanzania, sex education is given after menarche by the instructress (Caplan,
1976), as to
boys (p23, 25). Boy's circumcision (occurring anywhere between one year and puberty)
is considered necessary to allow the boy to eventually have coitus. Premarital
virginity is valued.
Among the Mombasa Swahili (Muslims), boys beginning at the age of
twelve as they start to move into all-male social contexts have age-stratified
sexual relationships with older men (Shepherd, 1987).
The junior is called shoga, the
senior is known as pasha. Anal
intercourse appears to be the accepted practice (Standing and Kisekka,
Dooley: "Vigoli (girls who have
not yet arrived at puberty) and young boys before they reach the age of puberty
are more or less free from all sexual taboos with one another. When a boy
reaches puberty he is forbidden to play any more with vigoli" (p2-3). During the ngoma, Wali (girls who have reached puberty),
are "taught all matters of sex. […] During the ngoma the makungwi and all other
visitors to the lago, the large grass initiation hut built outside the village,
have full permission to discuss sexual matters with the wali. Matters
concerning marriage with birth, wives and concubines, and in general all the
wali wish to know, are part of the instruction" (p2, 6). Male circumcision at
age 8 or 9. MacVigar:
"Instructions are given to boys and girls during the respective puberty rites.
These rites for the boy generally take place before puberty; for the girl they
begin the day first menstruation starts".
"The Turu of Tanzania enjoy sexual
license during the puberty ceremony of their teenage boys. On the first day's
festivities, extramarital lovers dance to imitate intercourse and sing songs
extolling the penis, vagina, and copulation. If these dances are not "hot", or
full of sexual passion, as the Turu say, the celebration will be a failure.
That evening sweethearts consummate what they have suggested all day".
states that boys are "circumcized
in the bush at the ages of five to seven". Not mentioning initiation schools,
it is also stated that "Grandparents instruct persons in sexual relations".
details the ngoma initiation rites for both sexes (p18-35). Boys' and
girls' secondary hair is epilated, and the initiandi are instructed in in
reproductive physiology. A girl is apparently not instructed in menarche
matters, since on its occurrence, she runs away in fright until she drops from
exhaustion (p28). During the rites there is a taboo on coitus (p29).
At the time of writing, childhood betrothal
was giving way to having the boy discover his own preferences.
Traditional education was tied to
circumcision, scheduled in adulthood, or at least "past puberty"(Crosse-Upcott,
on the contrary the initiates are mere children on whom many of the ritual
lessons, and in particular the formal instruction in such matters as sex, are
on the peoples of the Grand Lacs: The
kukuna represents the initiation
into sexual life for both sexes. By mutual manipulation of the labia pudenda
and vagina, the sexual apparatus is prepared for coitus. Progress is checked
digitally on a routine basis by the initiatrix. The custom, along with
sexological discussions is performed in the night, in the bios sacré. "Les garçons
très jeunes, qui n'ont pas encore de sperme, sont encouvertement admis au bois
sacré: ils participent aux excercices des filles, à la fois comme partenaires
et comme élèves. Le plus souvent, c'est aupres de sa grande sœur qu'un jeune
garçon fait son apprentissage, ou avec l'amie de celle-ci. Le principe de cette
coéducation est excellent non seulement pour le jeune garçon, mais aussi pour
la fille, qui, s'exerçant à faire l'amour avec un garçon impubère, ne court pas
le risque de se trouver enceinte. Quand un garçon prend de plus en plus
conscience de sa maturité sexuelle, il se voit exclu du groupe des adolescents
admis à suivre les filles dans le bios sacré" (p81-4).
Chaga children are told that babies come
from the forest (Raum, 1940).
Precircumcision intercourse is forbidden and punished by staking the lovers to
the ground in the forbidden position (ibid.,
p182; Dundas, 1924:p296).
The operation took place nominally at puberty, or rather, together with the
chief's son's puberty; so some were operated upon at a younger age.
Childhood family or house games provide
opportunities for sexually tinged games (Raum, Raum, 1938:p219;
1940 [1967:p252]; 1973:p35).
Sibling marriage play in huts is met with prohibitions referring to the incest
taboo (1940:p180-1; cf. Raum 1938 [1954:708]).
Night time sex instruction (menstruation, interfemoral intercourse,
contraception) for girls occurs in the initiation period (Raum, 1939).
Although girls are told to "watch their bodies" and not to lie with their
boyfriends, they are actually encouraged to "laugh, be happy, make yourself
pleasant! If you withdraw into yourself, you will not get a husband!" Extensive
education in sexual mores was given at pubertal rites (Raum, 1940:p330; Moore,
[see also p24-5]; Swantz, 1966:p150ff). The use of riddles in this respect is
noteworthy (e.g., Kamera, 1990).
Girls "use wish-magic to make their breasts grow […]" (R., 1938:p221).
speaks of rearing marriage. Betrothal could take place at a "very young" age or
before birth (p192). Similar to the Sukuma, boys and girls moved out of their parents' hut any time after the
age of 6 and 10 years and lived in girls' and boys' dormitories (about ten
girls together (Swantz, 1966:p118).
The girls had considerable freedom and the boys could enter into their hut,
called maji (cf. ®Basukuma) and vice versa, not needing anyone's permission. No one
was to see them entering, though. As (Blohm, 1933:p25)
remarks, "[e]he Mädchen zur Frau reifen können, meinen viele, daß ein Mädchen
erst bei einem Mann liegen muß, ehe ihr erster "Monat" kommt. Deswegen tun sie es auch". Children play marriage, but no sexuality was connected to this play
by the author (p21, 22).
states that mothers were encouraged to carry babies on their back to feel its
erection when he needed to urinate.
boys and girls develop and manifest sexual growth, parents and society show
appreciation of such developments because they point to sexual potency, hence
fertility. Grandparents often examine boys' and girls' sexual parts without
necessarily directly showing that they are ascertaining fertility
characteristics. A grandparent can handle a boy's genitals pretending "to seek
snuff" from the phallus or wanting to use the whole apparatus as "bellows" (the
testicles) and "tuyere" (the phallus). If fact, he or she want to establish the
reaction of the boy: whether the testicles are developing, whether pubic hair
is growing, or whether the grandparent can trigger an erection. Grandparents
would do the same for girls. When a grandmother would go so far as to check on
the genitals, a grandfather would only play with breasts. He would teasingly
demand to suckle from the girl" (p51-2).
Dolls and playing marriage were encouraged
as "fecundity-generating" activities. Boys receive sex instruction on the day
they moved into circumcision camp prior to entering it (sexual function, female
genitalia, incest and menstruation taboos). "Sex outside appropriate
circumstances was seen as a resulting in, among other things, impotency, i.e.,
the loss of fertility". Clitoris and labia were manipulated. After seclusion,
they were brought to a secret place for a rite called nkmango (Wamakonde), nkamako
(Wamakua), or nkooli (Rufiji-Pangani
languages), where the focus is on coitus:
"The message is that sexual
congress within its appropriate context is a healthy act and therefore
desirable. A copy of the male organ carved from wood or moulded in clay is
produced for the initiates to see, handle and feel. They are also shown where
in their own body it should go and how. As at this stage they would have
reached puberty, they would be told that they were physically capable of
accommodating any male organ, whatever the size" (p52-3).
Conform Arab-Persian custom, the mentor
would be present at the consummation of marriage.
Among the Tanzanian Luguru, boys may be
given a demonstration of sexual intercourse using a hen during the ng'hula initiation stage, at age 8 to 9
Four terms are used for periods up to mwali
(maidenhood), the use of which is considered offensive after a next had been
appointed (Brain, 1978:pp179).
Although breasts are frequently used for a girl's growing up, secondary hair
growth and menstruation are conversational taboos; menstruation is indicated
only in euphemism, and "[s]everal women informants protested their total
ignorance of menstruation before it occurred, and their terror they had done
something wicked. They all stated "Mwiko
kabisa kumwambia kigoli!" (Sw.)- it is absolutely taboo to tell a
pre-puberty girl". After the seclusion of the Mwali rite (held "when a girl
reaches puberty", and to shield her from sexual relations), the girl is
instructed at a ceremony called kucheza
mkole (the dance at the tree of maturity), by the muhunga, according to Von Waldow (1935)
the maternal grandmother, but never the mother. According to Swantz
information included statements such as
"with maturity comes sex, never refuse
your husband; use three pieces of cloth to wipe him after intercourse and keep
them washed; do not commit adultery; when you menstruate dig the blood into the
ground and never climb into the loft for food at that time- send somebody else;
only mature women can attend mkole;
mothers must not teach their daughters; don't be stubborn, especially with your
husband, stubborn ones die of snakes; do not pass a cross-roads directly".
The mwali ceremony, also practised by
neighbouring Kwere and Kami tribes, is
aided by the use of dolls (Harding)
maintained by the candidate during her seclusion.
(sing. Mwali) are engaged before or during seclusion. "Although Muslims and
Christians go through the wedding ceremonies of those religions, a wedding, as
such, was not part of Luguru custom; the bride went from her début to her
husband's bed" (p182-3), where after the final instructions, the grandmother
expects to find coins on the bed corners as a sign of mutual satisfaction.
Thus, "[t]he Zaramo girl at the onset of
menstruation is secluded for a lengthy period of time, in order, it is said, to
make her submissive, as well as to educate her for her future adult role"
(Swantz, paraphrased by Mbilinyi).
[Additional refs: Mluanda, M. (1971) The Luguru traditional moral
schools, Rev Ethnol 3,8:57-62]
rituals of sexual initiation practised by the Kaguru of Kilosa district
in the Morogoro region of Tanzania, "[e]nactments are performed that instruct
on the physiological nature of the woman and its relation to reproduction
process, marriage life, parenthood and the obligations and responsibilities of
women in the society" (Mlama, 1990:p166).
Digubi songs and performances
instruct girls between puberty and marriage on sexual hygiene, and details of
the sexual act (Van de Walle and Franklin, 1996).
The girl is taught "various riddles, sayings and songs with double meaning
relating to proper sexual conduct and sexual hygiene" (Beidelman, 1973:p264).
"Kaguru girls are (or were in the past) subjected to labiadectomy. This is said
to "soften" the girl and thereby make her better able to bear children. At
present this operation is not practised on all Kaguru girls […]".
cf. Beidelman, 1980)
gives a detailed account of Kaguru sexual development. Children learn about
sexuality and initiation long before they are eligible for the latter. Children
are "morally limited beings, and as such are excluded from full social, moral
affairs; they are not "innocent", but rather "incomplete social beings". Moral
responsibility is tied to adult knowledge (usungu)
and cleverness ordinarily concealed (kufisa)
and transmitted during initiation, and also informally through storytelling
heard before initiation: "Sexuality truly is the single most important factor
lying behind most Kaguru stories", at least communicating the "dangerous,
difficult and tricky" side of it, and sometimes the "amusing and ridiculous".
Sexual allusions are strictly forbidden between adjacent generations (at least
among direct kin), which leaves room for same-sex grandparent-grandchild and
unrelated peer communications on the matter (cf. p128, 185). Boys' maturity is
expressed through his no longer being allowed to eat food in the back of the
house with his family.
Little children sleep with parents, though sexual activity is carefully
shielded from them, and "even before initiation", or age 9-10, some older
children are transferred to a neighbouring dwelling for unmarried men and women.
Pubescence announces a new era of social control (p123-4).
Initiation songs and riddles cover a wide
range of sexological statements by metaphor, including circumcision, sexual
practices and meanings, menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth (p186-229).
Girls are initiated after menarche, and initiation is said to "cool" (imhosa)
the girls, subduing and controlling their new sexuality (p163). Boys'
masculinity seems to be tied to a circumcised penis. Songs seem to imply that
circumcision is done to facilitate coitus.
Apparently little is said about sexual
It is stated that "[l]ong before puberty,
girls commence sexual play with men, usually unmarried warriors. In all of
this, female lives do not undergo profound changes in terms of daily routine.
The relations of female with males change, however, from child, to Lolita-like
lover, to wife, to mother, to mother-in-law, and grandmother". They are
initiated usually before menarche, and are forbidden to conceive before
marriage, which does not preclude "a wide variety of sexual play with the
warriors, often much older than these girls" (Beidelman, 1980:p155).
Girls leave home soon after puberty "if not before". There is much rivalry for
the sexual favours of girls among adjacent age-sets (following the ®Masai system).
"For Baraguyu, age is profoundly important for both men's and women's
sexuality, yet since men buy a womb and need not even be the actual genitors of
the children they control, their sexuality may be ideologically manipulated to
a considerable extent. Warriorhood serves a necessary function in distracting
attention and providing vicarious, transitory rewards for those at their sexual
peak who are denied formal realization of their energies". An uncircumcised
youth is not allowed to sleep with circumcised girls, while junior warriors
have access to all unmarried circumcised girls (Beidelman, 1960:p273).
"In Sukuma life there is no
clearly prescribed sexual role because children and young boys (bayanda) and girls (baniki) play together without restriction, in the course of which
there is bound to be a increasing amount of sex play. Children thus behaving
would get a sound beating from their parents or neighbours catching them, but
nevertheless such play is universal and forms a gradual and informal education
into life which is denied to more withdrawn communities. […] Both sexes from
about the age of eight years until round about the time of puberty, play at
building small houses and setting up families therein. This game (bulya) consists of cooking grain that
they have gleaned away from the fields at harvest, the inevitable sexual play
between the children acting as mother and father, and the caring for imitation
cattle […]. Thus from an early age both
boys and girls are conditioned into their future roles as husbands and wives
with their sexual activity taken for granted with the only restriction that it
should be carried on discreetly so that the older generation should not notice
and of course that unmarried girls should not bear children".
In the maji
(ibanza is the boy's equivalent; cf. ®Nyamwezi), which is established
in the house of an old married couple of the village and entered after
menarche, or even before, no formal sex education takes place. However:
"The inhabitants of a maji are free to leave it at night, and
not only the young men of the village, but married men also call at the house
and frequently invite the young girls to dances (mbina). It is not good form for a man to enter the maji at night, but the evenings are
spent in conversation and flirting […] The maji
time, especially during the first few years, is a very happy phase, but sexual
intercourse is in no way its sole purpose. In many cases the state of
semi-virginity is retained for a long time. The behavior of the girls is not
criticized by the community as long as they observe the conventions of their
position which demand not chastity but discretion […] The ideal behavior for a
girl while living in the maji is to
have a few lovers, so as to gain sufficient experience for a good wife, and to
marry at the age of about 18 to 20 years" (Cory, 1953 [1970:p39-40]).
In fact, "so long as no one sees, all the
numberless devices of illicit love are used" (Tanner, p125).
is no formal sexual instruction given to either sex prior to marriage probably
owing to the absence of initiation rites, although a certain amount of general
knowledge is picked up from their contemporaries in the dormitories and fields;
however, mothers usually give some instruction on sexual techniques to
daughters about to marry as a means to satisfying their husbands and thus
preventing them from wandering off elsewhere to find pleasure, as well as in
other aspects of married life".
As in the Nyamwezi, it is stated that "elders considered it a necessary practice for a
girl to have had sexual intercourse before her first menstruation" (Swantz,
1966:p118). However, Tanner (1955a:p127) argues that, although, as among the
Haya, Bena, Nyakyusa, Nyamwezi and Zamaro, betrothal could take place at any
time after age 5, and marriage is celebrated when the outward signs of puberty
arise, "there seems to be a genuine and almost universal reluctance to have
intercourse with immature girls for fear of damaging them for childbearing".
Lang and Lang (1973)
have noted that the influence of Christian missionaries led to the decline of
the maji house in contemporary
Bena children of both sexes freely mix and
play games together, based on imitating adult life (Culwick and Culwick,
about the age of 9-10, children sleep in separate quarters away from the
parents, and a relative separation of sexes is noted. "At the first
manifestations of puberty [polluarche], boys undergo an initiation ceremony
during which they are given definite instruction regarding sexual intercourse.
It is believed that if they do not go through these rites their virility will
fail". The instruction takes place using sticks and stones as graphical
support, and the boy is warned against puberty. At girl's menarche
but also from age nine, girls are instructed in male sexual anatomy (choosing
healthy ones from deformed) and sexual intercourse at a second initiation
ceremony called kwiwindi (p349),
along with maternal duties, etc. After menarche, and, if betrothed, her
marriage ceremony, there is again sexual instruction by songs and dances, but
never by the mother (p355). Unmarried boys and girls passing puberty are "far
from likely to live celibate" (p360), connected to the fact that the "Wabena
quite frankly regard sexual pleasures as the normal hobby of every normal man
and woman […]. It [sex] is a great interest, a good sport, a constant
adventure, and it causes him no devastating moral conflicts"(p361, 414).
Betrothal could take place in girls' childhood (p309). A house was built close
by to have the girl visit the husband taking him food her mother had cooked.
"She at first, she would after a little while stay chatting and playing, and as
she began to develop he would lead her on to greater intimacies, even before
she actually reached puberty; for Bena girls are precocious misses and
conscious of the promptings of sex before they reach adolescence". She would
return home at night until reaching puberty.
Among the Zambia Subiya, initiation and sexual
instruction begin at the time of menarche (Crowther, 1964:p53),
during Sikenge. "After [the
subsequent cleansing ceremony of two months], the girl is considered mature and
ready to be married. In some cases, her family would have arranged her marriage"
Via a nuptial song, the couple is invited to have their first coitus (ibid.), which may be interpreted as a
At menarche, girls undergo seclusion,
sexual instruction and labiadectomy (Beidelman, 1964).
"Ngulu boys are initiated some time between the ages of about 12 and 16; they
undergo circumcision and some hazing, and are taught various songs and riddles
providing traditional lore not only about sexual relations, the nature of the
sexes and the problem of birth, but also about other values and traditions not
directly associated with these. […] Although they may be initiated either
before or after they show signs of puberty, today, at least, most boys are
circumcised before they have reached sexual maturity. I was told that a
sexually mature youth who was not circumcised would be refused by women"
As to the format of instruction, the candidates "[…] are posed various riddles
(mizimu) and mechanical puzzles (kihili, pl. Vihili) which they are later
taught to understand and which are related to the sexual lore they must learn
in order to conduct themselves as proper lovers and husbands" (p144). As for
the regulations covered, these include avoidance of "incest and other forbidden
sexual relations" (p145 et seq.).
At puberty, but before menarche, the girls
receive genital surgery, possibly hymenectomy, but perhaps labial (Brown,
1935:p92-3). At the
same ceremony, a collection of songs (misimu)
and accompanying dances are to introduce the girls with "facts of life, things
to do or to avoid doing during pregnancy and menstruation and the rules which
should guide girls in their marital relations, their relations with co-wives,
mothers-in-law, etc.". Not only does a mother not participate in the sex
instruction of her daughter, "custom also decrees that she must be careful
about enquiring into her daughter's love affairs". The ceremonies are held under
direction of her grandmother (p95-6). Hodgson (1926):
"After the age of three or four years [boys] were not allowed to play with
small girls, and though considerable laxity has crept in of late years, it was
formerly the custom to take great care of the morals of the young. They were supposed to know nothing until
puberty, and were not allowed to associate with strangers who might corrupt
them. Sexual matters were never mentioned in their presence; their elders would
even refrain from making such a remark as "So-and-so is pregnant", and when a
child was born they were told that it had been caught with a fish-hook in the
river, and if anyone died that he had been taken away by birds" (p50). At
puberty, the boy "is given medicine to prevent his being impotent, but is
warned against sexual intercourse with any woman before marriage, lest he
contract a disease, or made her pregnant and be obliged to pay compensation".
Girls appear to be married at puberty (although "[f]ormerly the Wahehe never
married till several years after puberty"), and coitus interruptus is practised
institutionally at the conclusion of the wedding feast. The girls receive
instructions on "manners" and "duties" at the two-stage genital surgery on the
labia minora and majora.
the ages of four and six, boys and girls engage in sex play, imitating their
parents, who do not take any precautions to prevent the children from
witnessing their sex act. Since children sleep with the mother and observe the
father visiting her, sex education starts early in a Barabaig household. Boys
and girls six years of age build a small hut of sticks and grass a short
distance from the kraal and engage in juvenile sex play. If they are discovered
by either parent, the children will not be admonished or made to feel ashamed,
although the girl will be called away to run an errand. It is a short
transitional step from the sex play of children to the sexual liaisons of
adolescent boys and girls".
Wilson (1951a ):
"It is in conversation and play with village contemporaries that some knowledge
of sex is acquired" (p88). "[…] [I]n spite of her mother's responsibility for
her [virginity], a girl learns nothing positive from her mother about sex, but
from her own slightly older friends; with them she discusses the technique of
love-making in detail, but never with her mother" (1936:p264). More clarity is
gained at puberty initiations, although
"[f]ormal sex instruction" may precede puberty initiation (cf. Stephens,
1971:p407). The basis
of Nyakyusa sexual morality is the separation of the sexual activities of
successive generations (particularly mother-son), hence the so-called
age-villages, where age-segregated groups of the same gender life together.
Adults rationalise this with the danger of a growing boy hearing lewd talk
between parents or seeing parental nudity (Wilson, 1949:p22, 24-5;
Wilson [1964:p82-3, 159]). In line with this organisation, "[t]he Nyakyusa
believe that the sexual fluids are extremely dangerous to children ,
hence (they say) the restrictions on the parents of a young child sleeping
together [sic]" (Wilson, 1936:p262 /
"Except in some wealthy Christian families, men rarely marry before 25, and
commonly not until nearer 30, while the girls are betrothed [at] about [age]
eight, and go finally to their husbands when they reach puberty"; the men also
marry junior wives. Hut building is practised by small boys, but this becomes
serious business among herdboys at age 10 or 11. Homosexual play is common
among boys herding cows, beginning at age 10 to 14 (1951a:p196;
[1964:p87-8, 196-7]). According to "an exceptionally reliable informant", the
older ones may "persuade the little ones to lie down with them and to do that
which is forbidden with them between the legs". "Contrary to general belief
about "primitive" societies, homosexual intercourse is common in the boys'
villages, between close friends, but there is no real perversion; homosexuality
is said to be always faute de mieux.
The older men in discussion dismiss it with the tolerant word "adolescence", it
is never continued after marriage, and all except the feeble-minded get married
sooner or later" (1936:p273). Indeed, later,
because the older men are polygynists so that the younger age group cannot
marry (Wilson, 1959:p197).
In the boy's village, sexual matters are freely discussed and the younger ones
listen to older ones (1936:p272-3): "[…] that is how children grow up". Affairs
with girls begin before puberty. Childhood elongation of the labia majora is
practised (Wilson, 1957:p87).
Girls may be betrothed well before puberty (8 years, opposing an average age of
"puberty" of 15-16; or even in infancy; Wilson, 1936:p257),
and they may live with their "husbands" for some time before they grow up,
"for the view of most Nyakyusa is
that a girl should become accustomed to her husband gradually and that it is
good for her to visit him from time to time, sweeping his house, cleaning the
byre, drawing water and cooking for him, and learning the art of love-making
with him and no one else. While she is still very immature it is insisted that
he should only have intercourse with her inter
crura, but when she is approaching puberty he often has full intercourse
with her. No legal case can be brought against him in court if he does so,
provided that he has not forced or frightened her, but his friends may tell him
he is foolish, and is "teaching his wife adultery", since now he can have no
proof, in the physical examination at puberty, that she has not slept with
other men" (for an
historical analysis, see also Wilson,
In the seclusion hut/ bride's hut, a
"centre for sex play", "[…] intercourse inter
crura is permitted, and no "husband" can claim damages if his betrothed
wife lies with another young man there, unless penetration has taken place".
The girl receive advise on sexual mores and menses, and are examined for
virginity (p96-9). Wilson (1936:p258) states that in some families the girl's
mother inspects the hymen after each visit. If she is found to be deflowered, a
father may do nothing at all, or sends her off to her husband: "You have made
her a woman yourself, you must pay the rest of the marriage-cattle quickly".
Ngonde boys from age 10 to marriage live
in separate villages, and homosexuality was condoned provided it was mutually
agreeable; polygyny would have facilitated the practice, and there are no
observations on the equivalent in girls, who marry early (Wilson, 1957).
Youth are not supposed to be sexually
active until after the ritual and circumcision after pubescence (Rigby, 1967).
Girls are marriageable after the puberty ritual, including instruction in
sexual matters from a woman of her grandmother's generation. "Children before
puberty and initiation play at being married. Young boys build tiny
"homesteads" and "cattle byres" and clay cattle, and the girls help them in
this and play at being wives. Sexual play among children is condoned as simply
the result of childish ignorance. But sexual segregation in work and play takes
place at an early age (Rigby, 1969:p205).
"It is virtually impossible for uncircumcised boys to have heterosexual
relationships, as it is indeed for uncircumcised adults from areas who have
come to live in Ugogo; the girls and women just laugh at them"; circumcision
takes place at age 11-14, "or even younger". A girl is initiated at age 8-11,
before puberty, and the initiation does not signify her immediate
marriageability (this is attained at menarche). Betrothals rarely occur before
puberty, or in infancy (p209). Instruction may be given by any married woman.
Whether the speech in boy's initiation
ceremonies includes sexologia was not clarified by Hambly (1935:p39).
"Traditionally, the Angolan youth,
particularly from rural areas, has practised rites of initiation. These rites
introduce young men and women to sexual issues. The main objective of this
ritual learning process is to prepare the youth for marriage and their
individual and social roles as procreators. For example, the initiated boy shall
have his first sexual experience with an adult woman (generally, a maternal or
paternal aunt) who could explain to him the most adequate attitude to fulfil
his role as a father and to inhibit distress (Altuna, 1993).
These pre-marital relations are considered as an important psychological
preparation and acquisition of skills for the exercise of a man's primordial
role in society. Society, therefore, recognises these rites as rehearsals and a
proof of his ability to be married. Although society exerts a strong control on
youth, particularly, regarding sexual life, this sexual education might be at
the origin of certain abuses and sexual freedoms. Thus, initiated youths could
take a lover in secret. In some cases, young women who have been initiated and
are no longer virgin feel freer to maintain hidden sexual relations.
Circumcision has the following objectives: to prepare the young man for
physiological roles of fatherhood and to define his sexual role regarding
marriage. This could be practised as part of rites of initiation into puberty
"The family education particularly
regarding sex exerts an influence on behaviour of young people. However,
considering the Angola case study, its discussion between parents and offspring
is very rare in so far as sex is considered a "taboo" subject. The results of the study carried out in Luanda
among teenagers between 14-20 years old show that most of the teenagers do not
talk about sex with their parents. Generally, this subject is tackled among
friends, school acquaintances or girlfriend/boyfriend (Leitão, Ana, 1997). According to some authors, parents avoid
talking about these issues for it is considered a motivation to the early practice
of early sexual experiences" (p40). "Within the traditional societies, the
beginning of sexual life is very early, but it is regulated and reproduction
oriented. In this way, the youth begins
their sexual life within a framework of a formal union. Today, the practice of
sex addresses pleasure, as well as the learning of sex addresses the duties of
a husband" (p54).
details institutional child prostitution of a rare species:
"Virginity cannot be expected in
the bride as girls are allowed to indulge freely up to the age of puberty. It
is the custom of the country that about the period when the millet ripens (May)
the young men of each village should club together to obtain a Mombanda. The Mombanda has to be
a girl under the age of puberty, a stranger to the village, and she has to
prostitute herself with all the young men in turns, but there are days when
orgies take place and all the men have intercourse with her. On these special
days the Mombanda's mother provides food
and palm wine for the young men; it is she who receives the payment, which
consists for the term of its duration (two lunar months), of fifty "salts" per
man. Not all young men contribute, as they are some who cannot afford it; only
contributors enjoy the privileges, and it is "good form" to belong to this set.
Not only does a fact that a girl has been a Mombanda
not prejudice her chances of marriage, but it is considered a distinction; no
girl can be Mombanda more than once.
Should she die while she is in this position, her village is entitled to heavy
Sexual instruction formed a portion of
boy's ritual education at about age 12 (Tucker, 1949).
Girls are warned for boys. An Ovimbundu mother "[…] will
teach her daughter saying, A girl does not play with boys, for boys are sharp
Don't play with them. This advice is because of sex, although the child may not
understand it at the time. But when the boys call her, she will remember the
advice of her mother and may quickly reply, saying, My mother says, Don't play
with boys: they'll hurt you. Thus she has taken to heart what her mother has
told her and may go ahead in the same way. A good deal of knowledge is
"incidentally" learned from adults and children, though "[l]ittle direct sex
teaching is attempted". Parental sexual intercourse might be observed, though
prevented. McCullouch (1952:p42):
"Little direct sex teaching is attempted, and adults are reticent in speaking
of sexual matters in the presence of children. But since children live with
their parents in one-room houses, it is inevitable that children should
sometimes observe intercourse". "Hetero-sexual play is not in vogue" (Childs,
speculations are made for possible instructions at the onjango (men's club), an
institution in decline where boys learned "to know his social status and all
the etiquette pertains to it", or at the initiation. The Ovimbundu education is
said to be generally casual. With puberty (about 14-16 for girls, 15-17 for
boys), "girls congregate in kitchens and each boy builds himself a house". Late
teens may have a trial marriage (oku tumisa), but are warned for intimacy.
Premarital virginity is highly prized, although no periodic tests take place
(cf., Erny (1972 [1981;p61]). Three females "act as instructors for the girls
during isolation in the bush where they receive sexual and domestic
Boys get sexual instructions and ritual intercourse
in the seclusion accompanying the puberty ritual. Girls have a ritual with the
same elements (Holdredge and Young, 1927).
Among the Wahiwé described by Falk (1925)
solitary masturbation is regarded as suspicious, though homosexual acts occur
in both sexes from age 7 to 18. There is also age-stratified male homosexuality
with boys 12 to 15 years old.
"In Zambia, the timing of sexual
activity initiation, and the societal control of sexual relations among
adolescents, varies across ethnic groups. The Bemba, for example, expect
teenage females to be chaste before marriage. The Cewa, on the other hand,
tolerate limited and discrete sexual relations among the young. […] One of the
most common traditional methods of imparting family life education among
Zambian ethnic groups is through initiation ceremonies. The Bemba, a large
Zambian ethnic group, seclude the teenage woman for a few days to a month at
the commencement of her first menstruation. Elderly women, chosen by the
initiatee's parents, instruct and test the ability of the teenager to perform
the Cimwangalala dance. This is a dance every Bemba woman is expected to know.
In addition, they instruct the young woman on many familial and personal
matters such as sexual hygiene and child rearing. These ceremonies provide
young Bemba women with sexual knowledge and the ability to make decisions in
the interests of the self and the family (Barnes, 1970; Jules-Rosette, 1980;
Mair, 1969). […] The results of this study underscore the importance of
traditional institutions such as initiation ceremonies on sexual activity
levels of teenagers".
In a 1973 study by Bahl et al. (1975),
the commonest age of first sexual experience in Zambia was about thirteen. In a
study among 64 mostly male university students by Bloom (1972),
first sexual experiences were indicated to occur at a range of 8-17 (p295).
About 1/5 claimed to be seduced by older girls, and about 1/5 found their early
sexual experiences so traumatic "that they had abandoned overt sexual behaviour
until recently". According to one study,
indicate that traditional courtship forms are slowly being replaced by modern
patterns of courtship behaviour.
According to clinical admissions,
most STD's in children are due to a vertical transmission by adults to
"promiscuous" adolescents to passive yet curious children.
Among 1980 Toka (Zambia), the supposedly
secret dances of the girl's initiation, which imitate desirable sexual
movements were actually common knowledge of all small children, boys and girls,
who liked to play at practising them "in public and in full view of annoyed
adults" (Geisler, 1997:p96-7). As for initiation:
process of initiating a girl […] plays a crucial role in shaping a girl's
perception of sex and sexuality" (Mlay, 2000:p79-80):
"In Zambian families it is a taboo for
parents to discuss matters relating to sex and sexuality with their children as
only grandparents are supposed to do so. […] Depending on the subject,
demonstrations would have to be carried out. This particularly happened during
lessons on love-making during which an old woman would lay on top of her for
therapeutic [?] demonstrations. […] [According to an informant,] "During all
this time the emphasis was on how to please your husband in bed and being
submissive to him at all times including making love to him whenever he
[Additional refs.: Peltzer and Likwa (1991)]
"The marriage of immature girls is so
customary among the Ba Kaonde that a Government inquiry was made into the
matter; it was found that girls "are courted and wed between the ages of eight
and thirteen, always before they have attained puberty… It is not uncommon for
them to be wives three or four years before they are even capable of coitus"
(Melland, as cited by Seligman).
Van Binsbergen ()
related that Nkoya girl's initiation rite "[…] is the celebration through which
she shall finally become a woman, after months of seclusion in which the only
manner she could set a step out of doors was in a stooping position and covered
by a blanket; after months of rough sexual and social teachings from the part
of her mentrix and other elderly women in the evenings".
"Great emphasis lies on the
acquisition of an adult female sexual role. The girl is taught to enlarge her
vagina till three fingers can go in; she is taught to wiggle and incline her pelvis
during the coitus; and acquires knowledge about secret herbs that
(unfortunately at the cost of damage to her fertility) prevent vaginal
secretion — to serve the Nkoya male ideal: penetration in a bone-dry vagina.
She has already been setting herself to make her labia larger than nature
provides: starting in her ninth or tenth year up until her coming-out ceremony,
the girl spends hundreds of hours, by herself or in company of girl-friends,
indoors or somewhere in an open spot in the woods, stretching these parts of
her body until they have reached an extra length of some centimetres [note:
Could not this custom, which in Bantu-speaking Africa seems by no means unique
to the Nkoya, again be interpreted as an attempt to imitate another physical
feature of the pre-Bantu Khoisan inhabitants: their enlarged labia? Cf. van
Binsbergen, in press]".
Johnston (1897:p408, n1),
a medically trained missionary informing Johnston about the "depravity
prevalent among the young boys in the Atonga tribe" rated their behaviour as
defying description even in "obscure Latin". As for the opposite sex, "scarcely
any girl remains a virgin after about five years of age" in nearly the whole of
British Central Africa (p409, n) "except perhaps among the A-nyanja" due to
officious coitus after betrothal. Later, Roberts (1964)
would note that girls are considered marriageable after menarche, and marriage
at 15-17 was common. Sexual instruction is part of the wedding night
Smith and Dale (1920, II:p38)
observed Ila children playing mantombwa
("harvest festival") with house-playing and going to bed in separate huts. This
is seen in the light of chikunku
(childishness). Sexual interaction with an immature girl is tonda (taboo) but, according to leading
men in the tribe, it occurs. They probably practice kuchompa ("external" intercourse),
after which the girl may be rebuked by her elders. "Owing to these things, it
is doubtful whether any girls who could be called chaste are discoverable over
ten years of age". Thus, "It is reported that there are no virgins among these
people after the age of ten" (Ford and Beach, 1951:p191). "Formal sex
instruction" may precede puberty initiation (Stephens, 1971:p407).
The Ila child was sometimes betrothed at age four, or even earlier. At age ten,
she was taken to her future spouse's hut to perform domestic chores.
The Bemba are known for their detailed
sex instructions, as described by Hinfelaar (1994:p186-7).
Bemba matrilinear instructions on how to please a future husband were said to
be given "in such detail that many men who intend to marry a lady from another
tribe set great store in her being taught by the Bemba grannies in the rural
areas". A female journalist was quoted by Hinfelaar (p186) as complaining:
"The rise in promiscuity
which the nation is experiencing can be squarely attributed to the initiation
ceremonies on which women spend much of their time teaching small girls how to
become professional love-makers. Is this what initiation is all about, a
tradition that turns daughters of the soil into prostitutes who later bring
unnecessary problems like unplanned babies and diseases?".
however, wrote that Bemba "instruction, in the European sense, was quite
unnecessary" in such subjects as bringing up children, cooking, and acting as a
housewife. "In the same way, Bemba girls are not ignorant of the nature of sex
since many of them have been given to their husbands before puberty and some
form of intercourse, usually incomplete, has taken place". Sexually mature
people are considered "hot" and as such dangerous for infants and young
children. Hinfelaar notes in this respect: "Traditionally children were
regarded as cold, that is as sexually neutral, almost genderless. It was normal
for boys and girls to play together and even their imitations of parental and
conjugal life was regarded as innocent". Coitarche after initiation is
considered dangerous, and not to be carried out without ritual precautions. As
points out: "Children can "play at sex" (Masansa).
However, as soon as a girl's periods begin, there is danger that sex and blood
would mix to produce a "child of ill-omen" (Wa
mputula), born outside socially and ritually sanctioned precincts. In this
case, the young parents would be driven into the bush away from their
Icisungu, to have one's first menstruation, was celebrated as a wondrous
event when the young woman received the gift of her sexuality from the
Transcendent. The word Chisungu is
derived from the verb ukusunguka, to
be overwhelmed, to be startled and is associated with the noun chisungusho, a wondrous event" (Hinfelaar).
"At their first menstruation the initiates, sometimes called Cisofu "the big elephants", run into the
forest […]. Their unbridled sexual fertility will be rescued from chaotic
animal needs and brought under social control" (Maxwell).
Girls' puberty rite is called chisungu (kisungu). Betrothal takes
place before this. The rites are disappearing or abbreviated (Mair, 1969:p104;
"with the consequent omission of moral and magical instruction". The first of
three phases of the rite are occupied with marital instructions, "obviously
belonging to Christian sex education" (Hinfelaar). "The mother and daughter
cannot easily talk of sex matters together, but the grandmother [...] or some
non-related midwife is not limited in this way" (Richards). A detailed
description of contemporary rites is offered by Rasing (1995).
She writes that the rites take place some years after menarche. "The girl is
supposed to know nothing about sexuality, which is nowadays hardly ever the
case. At school she learns about sexuality and many girls have sexual
relationships. When girls are about ten years old, they are supposed to extend
their labia [minora]. In this way they have some sexual experiences but the
main thing is that they have not had sexual intercourse" (p44). "Parents and
children would never speak of sexual matters in front of each other and
children above the age of weaning are not allowed to share the sleeping hut of
their parents, although now required to do so by almost all the schemes of
urban housing. Women frankly discuss sexual matters, but are careful of
referring to these when members of different age groups are present" (p27). In
a later dissertation (2001)
the author further details the sexual significance of the rites (e.g., p121-2,
185, 248-50) in contemporary urban context. A further listing of songs is
provided by Verbeek.
As in other Bantu tribes, small girls and
boys play at marriage, building huts, cooking, "and sometimes imitating the sex
act" (Richards, 1940:p15;
Rasing, p31). The sexes are separated at play and work and the "sex play
allowed between adolescent boys and girls in a number of other Bantu societies
is not permitted in this tribe". "There is nevertheless a constant emphasis on
the coming of sex maturity. Young girls sometimes join up in pairs and refer to
each other as husband and wife [a footnote reads: "I have some evidence that a
certain amount of homosexuality, usually mutual masturbation, occurs among the
adolescent boys at this time, but my information on the up-bringing of girls is
naturally fuller than that of boys"]; and from twelve or fifteen onwards they
meet together in small groups in the bush to practice the custom known as ukukuna [labial stretching, as in the ®Chewa]. They speak earnestly of their duty to prepare themselves in this
way for matrimony, watch anxiously to see their breasts forming, and constantly
refer to the coming of physical maturity and to their ability to bear children.
Bemba parents give their daughters to their husbands before puberty (cf. p64) a
custom also practiced by kindred tribes such as the Bisa and Kaonde. [...] most girls have prenuptial intercourse with their future
husbands, and it must be rare for them to reach puberty without the knowledge
or practice of sex relations" (p16). Girl's pubertal stages are intimately
linked to social status; a distinction is made between pre- and postpubertals,
and for prepubertals, between pre- and neothelarchics. Running counter
Christian teachings, the Bemba socialise sex and prepare the young of both
sexes for the satisfaction of the sex impulse "as soon as possible" (p18, cf.
25) and "to an extent unknown in modern society". However, "[t]he rape of a
girl who has not reached puberty is a matter of little importance, while heavy
damages may be exacted for the rape or seduction of an initiated girl".
Labia are lengthened at age 12-13, boys
masturbate in groups (Raum, 1986:p38).
[Additional refs: Hoch, E. (1968) Mbusa: A Contribution to the Study
of Bemba Initiation Rites and Those of Neighbouring Tribes. Chinsali: Ilondola Language Centre]
states on the M'wemba of Rhodesia that
"[g]irls when they have their
first menstruation are taken to a hut in the village, where they are instructed
as to how to best please their husbands, and they are told all about
childbirth, which is demonstrated to them by old women. Their sexual organ is
enlarged either with an artificial penis cut from the Mulombwa tree or from a
tree called Mutimbwambusa, or with an artificial penis made from the leaves of
Marital sexarche is preceded by ritual.
Sex instruction is given by an
instructress (Turner, 1968:p246, 247f).
At circumcision, novices are given tortoise (mbachi) meat to eat "to
give them a strong penis" (p254), and there is mimicry of coitus (see also
Betrothal is common in childhood, but no cohabitation
occurs until the marriage ceremonies after puberty (Mors, 1946-9).
At menarche, sexual instructions are had from some old woman, a nacimbusa (Mors; Willis, 1966:p51).
In an effort to delay menarche, girls are
told not to run around the village or lie down on their stomachs (White, 1953).
Premarital virginity is not expected of girls and many have sexual relations
prior to puberty (White, 1962).
Unlike the Bemba, there is an obvious association of detailed sexual
instruction and the puberty rituals. If not betrothed by the time of the
ceremony, a young man has to be found who will have sexual intercourse with her
as a finale "to remove the taint of growing up" (1962:p14) (cf. Kikuyu). Ritual intercourse is important at the end of both boy's and
girl's ceremonies (White et al., 1958).
Additional preparations include the administration of aphrodisiac herbs,
intravaginal medicines, steaming of the vagina, and love potions. During
seclusion, defloration (if necessary) and macronymphia is practised (White,
Prepubertal marriage is less common than in
the past. When it does happen, in contrast to the past, the girls will have
prepubertal intercourse with their husband.
In Northern Rhodesia, infant betrothal was
opposed by Lozi law as established by King Lewanika (d. 1916).
According to Stirke (1922),
girls were betrothed in childhood, and married after mwalianjo (initiation); there were no boys' initiation ceremonies
(cited by Turner, 1952:p45). Gluckman (1951:p84/1967:p122)
was told by men that the girl "enlarges her vagina with a hoe-handle, and
enlarges her labia minora". Women artificially deflower girls at puberty, so
that most men denied knowledge of the hymen, and do not speak in terms of
that children "are often affianced at an early age, and the marriage is
consummated as soon as the girl arrives at puberty".
In Malawi, female sexual activity is
actively promoted through initiation rites that teach girls about sex and
encourage experimentation (cf. Horne, 2001).
some of the districts, especially those dominated by the Yao tribe, a young girl is told to become 'intimate' with a man after
initiation... Among other things girls are taught how to satisfy a man
sexually. This encourages unsafe sex. 'These young girls are not ready for sex,
either physically and mentally. […] During initiations
the boys too are taught about sex and are […] encouraged to have sex after
initiation. Quite often these youngsters do not use condoms because they know
very little about it. Despite all this it is still a taboo in Malawi for
parents to talk to their children openly about sex. As a result they learn
about it from initiation ceremonies in rural areas and from magazines and from
their peers. […] The Malawian cultural values regarding sex and sexuality tend
to emphasise and strengthen the dominance of boys and men and subservience of
women and girls".
"Initiation ceremonies […] are
intended to train boys and girls in acceptable behaviour but are also loaded
with lessons on theory and practice of sex, the latter before marriage. […]
Traditional initiation is the counseling of boys and girls by elders on
acceptable code of behaviour. This marks
the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence or, in some cases,
adulthood. The practice is common in
most parts of Malawi except in the Northern Region where the patrilineal family
system predominates. In some cases the
initiates are encouraged to have sex upon graduation as a way of putting into
practice the knowledge they have acquired".
"In some of the districts,
especially those dominated by the Yao tribe, a young girl is told to become 'intimate'
with a man after initiation… Among other things girls are taught how to satisfy
a man sexually. This encourages unsafe sex. 'These young girls are not ready
for sex, either physically and mentally. It is against this background that
responsible leaders must have the courage to change some of these harmful
cultural norms', says the [UNICEF] report. […] During initiations the boys too
are taught about sex and are also encouraged to have sex after initiation.
Quite often these youngsters do not use condoms because they know very little
about it. Despite all this it is still a taboo in Malawi for parents to talk to
their children openly about sex. As a result they learn about it from
initiation ceremonies in rural areas and from magazines and from their peers".
For a Nyasaland boy's coming of age,
observes, "[t]he decisive sign is the erotic dream, and it is only then that
the lad reports to a village elder (never to his own father), and the
preparations are made for a quite simple ceremony that marks his passage into
manhood". This would happen between age 15 and 18. "The next step is marriage,
and while a girl could be selected and negotiated for while still immature, the
boy had to be proven man before negotiation for him began". [Young contests
qualifications such as "obscenity" and "indecency" as applied to sexual
Lake Nyasa boys and girls play at being man and wife
"As children, boys and girls play at being man and wife, building little houses
in the bush and sleeping together; this is known as masanje. Promiscuous sexual
intercourse among girls before puberty is common; in this way the vagina is
usually dilated and no operation for so doing is performed. A virgin on her
marriage is "broken" by a friend of the bridegroom before the latter cohabits
with her. The friend is said "to eat new things"- Kudia ujobvu. A boy having an emission in the night will take his
soiled cloth to the headman of the village. He says, if the stain be black,
that the boy must not marry as he will be impotent" (p309-10). Curiously: "A
certain degree of precocity is apparent at least in young boys, and is
noticeably lost when they arrive at the age of puberty, when sexual excess seems
to reduce them to a state of, in many cases, semi-imbecility. From this they
may recover, or on the other hand they may remain certainly not so bright as
when they were boys" (p295). Seduction of a virgin requires a payment of the
equivalent of 2 dollars, "unless he marry her immediately". "Young girls by
constant pulling on the labia minora and enclosed clitoris try to cause
elongation, as such is said to be admired" (p317).
Boys and girls play at husband and wife
outside the village, including trial matings. The Chewa "believe that unless
children begin to exercise themselves sexually early in life they will never
beget offspring" (Ford and Beach, 1951:p190). Hodgson (1933:p138),
on the Chewa: "[…] the marriage may be contracted long before the girl is old
enough for consummation, and in such a case she must abstain from intercourse
with any other man, just as though the marriage had been consummated. If,
however, she is married before she can know her mind, and subsequently refuses
to have intercourse with the husband when approaching puberty, she is not held
to the contract". Winterbott and Lancaster (1965)
mention sexual teachings by an older woman during the seclusion period after
menarche. Traditionally, Chewa girls were generally married "within a few
months of reaching puberty (i.e., between twelve and fourteen years of age)"
The breaking of the hymen is an integral part of the puberty ceremonies of a
Chewa girl (Hodgson; Gordon and Brelsford, 1950:p219;
The ritual intercourse was performed by an unknown man, or, if married, by her
husband. After marriage, specific sex instructions were given, emphasising
techniques "for pleasuring her future husband". Kaspin:
"The purpose of male initiation is to turn boys into
sexual men and predatory members of Nyau [secret society, religious / moral
universe], a simultaneous transformation that takes place when they are led for
the first time into the Nyau meeting place […]. Female initiation is the
complement of male initiation, for its purpose is to turn girls into succulent
meat. This takes place at the "tree of maidenhood" (mtnego wa namwali),
synonymous with the bush, where girls receive instruction on the protocols of
states: "The Cewa believe that if a girl does not copulate before she starts to
menstruate she will die. Cewa specifically encourage childhood copulation when
children are playing house. If by misfortune a girl has not been deflowered by
puberty, he hymen was forcibly ruptured in a prescribed way". As with other
Central Bantu tribes, it was customary in the past for girls to be betrothed
before puberty, from which date only "limited sex relations were permitted
between the couple, but the girl must not be deflowered until the initiation
ceremony, which was held as soon as possible after her first menstruation"
(Rangeley, 1948:p41; Mair, 1951:p106; 1953:p88).
Mission teachings condemned early betrothal, sex play before marriage, and the
initiation ceremony, and fixed at minimum age for sexual intercourse (p107).
This would coincide with a belief that full intercourse with an uninitiated
girl led to sickness of a supernatural origin.
According to Mitchell,
though he recorded no actual instances, Yao girls would still "quite
frequently" be betrothed as infants or small children. The husband may also be
a child. Cohabitation would not occur until the girl reaches puberty. Female
puberty rites, at which sex education is given, may, in the past, have included
ritual defloration (Mair, 1951).
A comparable liaison of sex education and instruction with initiation (during
seclusion period) is described for boys (Stannus and Davey, 1913).
Bride and groom are formally instructed at the time of the wedding rituals
In Msondo (Nsondo), the Islamic
version of the former Chiputu, girls
of age ten were given sexual education to prepare her for married life (Msiska,
1995:p72). During Jando, the Islam substitute for the
former Lupanda, boys were said to be
"thoroughly enlightened as to sexual relations" (Johnston, 1897:p409, as cited
by Msiska, p77). According to the latter, this "included not only sexual
techniques, but also instructions to be followed, for example, when a woman is
found that all physical acts connected to sex are met with "extreme prudishness",
demanding correct behaviour from early life. Children's house-playing is not
noted to be sexual, but the children might play "Choosing a Lover", etc. (p41,
"The most stringent [of
prohibitions] was on any form of sex play between boys and girls. To avoid any
likelihood of this, little boys and girls were early encouraged to form
separate play groups. The elders kept an eye particularly on the boys, and if
they showed any inquisitiveness in their play about the private parts of a girl
playmate, they were beaten and reproved and told: "If you do this again, I
shall tell your father" (p80, 81).
At adolescence, sex instructions are given
at "puberty school". Macronymphia is practised in prepuberty, and in pairs
(Read, 1938). Among the
Chewa, childhood sexuality is common (p8, 12), and known by the name of ukusewera. Ngoni condoned partial
intercourse prior to marriage. Upper class girls would be examined once a month
by older women to monitor chastity. Sexual instruction is part of the puberty
rites, and is performed by same-sex adults.
[Additional refs: LeVine, R. A. (1963) Child rearing practices in
sub-Saharan Africa: an interim report, Bull
Menn Clin 27,5:245-56]
Vedder (1928 [1966:p49])
states that the development of breasts of girls was the sign for the first
physical preparation for marriage. At menstruation, she is "instructed in the
manner of her conduct towards young men and brothers [including a strict incest
avoidance], and in her later station as a married woman towards her husband".
She is now considered "adult". Marriage may be arranged in childhood (p52) but
this is not the sole way. Premarital pregnancy is regarded a disgrace.
KhoeKhoe, Hottentots, Nama Hottentot / Naman,
Namakwa, Namaqua, Khoikhoin (2,2,3-,3-3,3; 8,5; d5,3; E) (southern Namibia; South Africa) (®San) [up] [Contents] [Geographic
Index] [Ethnographic Index]
H. v. François noted that
"[d]er Verkehr der Geschlechter ist vom Eintritt der Rife an völlig ungehindert
[…]" (cited by Ploß / Renz, 1912:p544). No secret is
made of early childhood masturbation, which takes place with "considerable"
frequency (Ford, 1945 [1964:p20]; Ford and Beach, 1951).
that it was so frequent, one might call it a "natural vice". There is mention
of childhood elongation of the labia majora (Schapera, 1930:p243).
Hottentot mothers would tell their daughters, before their first menstruation,
to "Go and make yourself a mfuli [artificially extended labia] […]" (De Rachewiltz, 1963[1964:p152]). Schultze (1907:p298, 309)
noted the precocity of the Hottentots. "Bei der sinnlichen Frühreife des Volkes haben Knaben oft schon
Geschlechtsverkehr, ehe sie den Kinderspielen entwachsen sind" (Karsch-Haack,
1911:p132). The tribadie of Hottentot girls was
discussed by Karsch-Haack (1901 [1983:p241-2])
quoting Gustav Fritsch on the matter. The Nama were said to "encourage sexual
relationships between adults and children" (Eskapa, 1987:p154), but this remains
Indicative of the "love-play", or
"sex-play" hinted at by Nama dances as encountered among the Korana people by
Kirby was the
suggestion that "[…] no boy was even taught how to play until he had been
through the doro or puberty ceremony.
The significance of this limitation", the author argues, "is obvious".
[Additional refs.: Hoff, A. (1995) Puberty rite of a Khoekhoe girl], South Afr J Ethnol 18,1:29-41]
!Ko parents try to enlarge the boy's penis
by pulling and sucking it (Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1972:p59, 63; p58, ill.).
A boy may be punished in this way (Sbrzesny,  1976:p237).
When the boy infant touches his member himself, he is prevented to do so (Eibl-Eibesfeldt,
p153; 158, ill.). Girls mockingly "present" themselves ventrally and dorsally
(p128-40, ill.; cf. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1976 [1982:p142-7, ill.]),
but no further observations on sexual behaviour are communicated. "Although the
Bushmen are fairly liberal in sexual matters, open promiscuity is not
tolerated" (Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1978:p136).
Children play in groups and imitate incipient life events such as initiation
rituals (Sbrzesny, 1973);
sexual games were not noted in this article.
A menstruating girl is to marry an
initiated boy, there are no child marriages
(Heinz, 1994:p131, 175-6),
and the !Ko frown upon it; rape of immature girls is considered particularly
bad (p120). Boys and girls play together until they informally separate at age
8; "[g]irls have generally less freedom than boys".
"At the age of about 12 boys
begin to experiment with girls. They go into the bushes with them, fondle them,
and try intercourse ante portas [sic], but no defloration appears to
occur at this stage. Sometimes because older ones are not available the girls
are still quite young and cry during these advances. Usually they are seen by
someone in the village who reports the matter to the parents, who will
reprimand them, telling them to grow up before they do this sort of thing; but
these scoldings seem to lack conviction- grow-ups have told me about them
without evincing the slightest sign of annoyance. When the girl reaches puberty
she is no longer required by public opinion to abstain from sexual activities.
Virginity on marriage is neither essential not common" (p118-9).
Girls are extensively instructed on marital
life after menarche, emphasising passiveness when courted and during marital
intimacy (p124); boys are not instructed on sexual matters (p129).
Heinz and Lee (1978:p41)
state that "[...] most children start early, and go into the bush to indulge in
sexual experimentation. When a girl reaches puberty she is not by conviction
required to show avoidance of sexual activities, but while having full licence
in sex matters girls do come across practical obstacles to their indulgence:
there are usually people about, especially younger children, who play around in
the same house without respect for privacy". The only other limitations to sex
are "the taboos on sex before puberty and incest".
states that before 1960, most !Kung girls were married between 12 and 15, or as
is said, "the girls of Nyae Nyae go from their mother's breast to their
husband's on one day". Marriage sometimes takes place five to six years before
menarche (Marshall, 1965:p261;
the latter occurring as late as 15.5 (Kalota, 1974).
This would be so in former generations, says Shostak (1981:p127). Howell
found that 65% of Dobe !Kung women were married before menarche, occurring on
average at age 16.6 (SD=1.3, median
age=17.1). The mean age of marriage for girls is 16.9 (median 17.4) compared to
26.7 for males, median 25.5 (p175, 260). "Marriage need not be equated with the
first experience of sexual intercourse, since the !Kung do not see to place any
value on virginity and sex play among children is said to be common".
Eight and nine-year-old brides would be
married to teenaged husbands. Sexual intercourse does not take place until the
girl is "ready". However, no definite age requirement exists for marriage, and
physical signs of puberty are not required (Marshall, 1976:p269).
"The young couple are expected not to have sexual intercourse until the girls
are "big enough", informants said […]", although nothing was learned about the
actual sexual experiences of young couples.
Marshall did no observations on the early
marital couple. The girls should be "big enough" for sexual intercourse; a
"gentle old man" said, "They enjoy their youth together". Young children may be
instructed by sexual joking in their presence.
!Kung childhood was studied by Draper
(1972); infancy was studied by Konner (1973).
!Kung are known for their tolerance in child rearing matters; children of both
sexes play together, and both parents take part in socialisation (Barnard,
1992:p53). Children freely play games such as "Ostrich's Courtship".
Shostak (1976; 1981:p18-9, 30-1, 104-24)
gives a rather detailed first-hand account of !Kungchildhood sex play. Sexual intercourse is shielded from the eyes
of the children, but apparently not in a serious fashion. "All the women I
interviewed said their childhood sex play included sexual intercourse".
Children are not prevented if such play is done away from adults, although they
"do not approve" of it. The girls are "as free and unfettered as boys". The interviewees
reveal a great deal of pressure from the part of the boys, who even played
within a co-wife scenario. An "old" woman is interviewed:
"That's what an older boy does. He
waits until he is with a little girl and lies down with her. He takes some saliva,
rubs it on her genital, gets on top and pokes around with his semi-erection, as
tough he were actually having intercourse, but he is not. Because even though
young boys can get hard, they don't really enter little girls. Nor do they yet
know about ejaculation. Only when a boy is almost a young man does he start to
have sex like an adult" (1981:p112).
Michl (1986; 2002:p248-52)
seems to have little to add to this story.
A distinction is seen between premarital
and marital pressures:
"Although sexual knowledge is Each
!Kung woman's legacy from the sexual play in childhood, most young girls see a
world of difference between playing with boys their own age and having sex with
their husbands- grown men. A girl's first experience of adult sex is, therefore,
often traumatic. Sexual relations may be postponed for years, but once a girl
show clear signs of sexual development she is generally pressured to accept her
husband's sexual advances" (p147-8).
The Herero are engaged in childhood
At any rate, the engagement is a paternal matter (see also Vedder, 1928:p178;
Luttig, 1933 :p89).
Sometimes prepubertal marriage of girls occurred (Gibson, 1958).
commented on the "absence" of childhood education, leading to Unkeuschheit
Using data from the 1995 Botswana
Adolescent Reproductive Health Survey in conjunction with data from focus group
discussions, Meekers and Ahmed (2000)
suggest that adolescents become sexually active at an "early" age, and that
many of them, males and females alike, have multiple sex partners, facts
implying that adolescent reproductive health programmes should target youths
aged 13 or younger. According to a 1988 study,
the median age of female first sexual intercourse was just above 17.
G/wi girls are married at age 7-9, boys at
about 14-15 (Silberbauer, 1963;
Coitus does not begin until the girl is 11 or 12, when her breasts begin to
develop, i.e., prior to menarche. Prior to this time, a husband may, although
rarely so, be sexually active with an unattached older woman. The Bushchildren
play house (Silberbauer, 1965:p79),
though no sexual implications are indicated. From age 5 or 6 on, the girl is
exposed to the conversation of adult women during food gathering, which is "far
from inhibited". Girls marry at age 7 to 9, to boys aged seven years more
(p81), and without much of a ceremony. "Sexual intercourse commences only after
the first couple of years of marriage, when the girl's breasts begin to
develop"; if she is slow to mature, "her husband rather coyly admits his
impatience" (p83). There is no special recognition of defloration.
Sex education for girls is part of the
postmenarchal initiation rite (Larson, 1979).
Pubescent girls would practice a kind of genital modification used for
"enlargement of the genital orifice". Girls were be married before (those born
between 1920 and 1930) or after ghudyaho
(girls' puberty ceremony), either by kushesha
(man chooses a young girl) or kwandekera
(infant betrothal) (Unzicker, 1996:p98).
In the past, in both methods marriage partners were selected before
menstruation, and often the girl was married before puberty (i.e., at ages
8-11), "though most said the couple was forbidden to have sexual relations
until after the puberty ceremony. The girl is said "to sleep at the back" of
her husband before her first menstruation but is able to lie in front of him
after her ghudyaho" (p99). For the
grandparental generation, marriage was consummated at the first day (wenga); at wenga the bride's grandmother
(thitongwa, teacher) was present to
instruct the couple about living and sleeping together.
Both marriage patterns were quite rare in
the late eighties, and girls are married a year or more after menarche.
Ghudyaho is no longer is vogue, and girls hide their menarche.
Sexual activity prior to the payment which
give the right of a man to sexual intercourse with his fiancée is punished by a
fine (Kuper, 1970).
Marriage and sexual activity becomes
possible after the puberty ceremony at menarche (Barnard, 1980:p118).[Kaufman
(for the ¹Auin Bushmen) reports that 13 to 14 year old girls (or before puberty) were
married to 16 to 20-year-olds (cf. Lebzelter, 1934:p71)].
The game of "Getting Married" played by "young" girls includes a marriage by
capture, with dragging away of the screaming bride (Bleek, 1928:p20;
Children spend their days "wandering in the open" or helping collecting. In
later childhood girls "will probably have a lover or two, as erotic play and
courtship behaviour begins at a relatively early age, often prior to puberty.
All that is required for her to become a woman and ready for marriage is to
undergo her [...] puberty initiation" (Guenther, 1986:p211).
Dances at girls menarchal rites are "frenzied and replete with erotic gestures"
(p280). Afterwards, "[s]he was now [...] eligible for serious courtship or
marriage. In the event that the initiand was already married, she would now
change her status from child wife to true wife and would consummate her
quotes a 50-year-old woman on her childhood experiences, probably
characteristic of the Dobe Ju:
"When a child sleeps beside his
mother, in front, and his father sleeps behind and makes love to her, the child
watches. Perhaps this is the way the child learns [….]. Then, when he and the
other children are playing, if he is a little boy he takes his younger sister
and pretends to have sex with her. As he grows, he lives in the bush and
continues to play, now with other children, and they have sex with each other
and play and play and play […]. Some days I went with them. Sometimes I refused
to play, other times I agreed. The little boys entered into the play huts where
we were playing and then they lay down with us. My boyfriend came to see me and
we lived like that and played. We would lie down together and they would have
sex with us".
quotes an observation on the Bakatla,
communicated by Dr. Schapera ,
"The small children of these
ages (6-12), boys and girls, play together, and one of their games, called mantlwane ("little houses") consists of erecting
miniature household enclosures; then they pair off, boys and girls, in couples
and celebrate mock weddings, which end with each couple going to its little
enclosure and lying down together. Occasionally they both remove their
loin-girdles and rub together their genitals, without of course achieving
penetration. This game is played at night, when the parents can't see them. One
of my informants, a young man, told me that when he was a child of about 9 or
so his older brother, together with boys and girls of his age (13-15) used to
get the smaller children at night, pair off the boys and girls, make the little
boys lie on top of the girls, and then shout, e tsenye! e tsenye! [encouraging the children to mimic performance
of the act]".
Schapera (1930) points out that
circumcision had been abandoned, and that the sex education associated with its
ceremony had not been substituted. Traditionally, boys were "taught various
rules of sexual conduct, "because in the old days boys grew up at the
cattleposts and knew nothing of women" " (Schapera, 1978:p13-4).
Instructions included avoidance of coitus during menstruation, after recent
abortion, and with much older women.
on the Kgatla: "From an early age children are familiar with the nature of
copulation, and much of their play consists of games with a definitively sexual
character" (). Girls start pulling their labia at puberty, "sometimes a
little later", sometimes mutual. If the
labia do not stretch fast enough, magic is employed: as in the Venda, the
powder of a bat's wings is used. "In this way the labia will grow long like the
wings of the bat". The purpose is aphrodisiacal: "To excite the bull" ([p40,
168]). Boys use love medicines (meratisô)
([p42]). Girls from the age of 16 also dilate the vaginal canal ([p166]).
Schapera speaks of betrothal in early childhood or before birth in the past
([33, 37]). At the time of writing, "[s]exual adventure not only enters largely
into the lives of the young Kgatla, but strongly affects modern courtship".
At a later date, Suggs
(p108) notes that "[w]hen a girl attains menarche, she may already have learned
of its significance from friends. […] the Kgatla value age-specific knowledge
greatly and, while matters dealing with sexuality may be spoken about among
peers, such topics are rarely and only situationally discussed between
generations". This renders menarche a horror. Menerchal girls are told that "if
you now play with boys you will get a baby".
In Zimbabwe, Symington (1972)
found a mean age of male coitarche of 18, earliest at age seven. In another
study, the median age of first sexual intercourse was 19 for females aged
14-24), and 18 for males aged 14-21 (Boohene et al., 1991).
Twenty one per cent of rural and urban
secondary school boys aged 12 years reported having had intercourse (Campbell
and Mbizvo, 1994).
According to another study, children might initiate sex, at an earliest age at
eight, "although some indicated body experiments between children as early as
four years (Loewenson et al., 1997:p11).
Youths found themselves "able to decide about sex" at age 14.0 (rural boys),
17.0 (urban boys), 13.9 (rural girls), and 16.6 (urban girls) (p10). Some
customs were recognised that might lead to sexual abuse of children (p29):
"Chiramu" or "Sibale" ("a custom aimed at socialising children that induced
touching young girls, leading to touching of young girls private parts");
"kuzvarira" ("young girls pledged in marriage"); "ngozi" ("young girls handed
over as compensation to an injured family"); "chikwambo" (visible or invisible
objects are "instructed to have sex with children").
The Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture has
introduced sex education in primary schools in spite of the controversy that
still surrounds it (Mapfumo, 1999).
The author comments on the breakdown of sex education roles for aunts and
uncles as a result of contact with the European family system. The study
demonstrated that most of the sixth and seventh grade pupils felt comfortable
to discuss sex with their teachers, while most did not with their parents,
although 82% felt their parents had positive attitudes toward sex education.
In pre-colonial days, homosexuality was
disapproved of "at least beyond adolescence" (Epprecht).
[Additional refs.: Center for Reproductive Law & Policy, (CRLP) and
Child Law Foundation, (CLF) (2002) State
of Denial: Adolescent Reproductive Rights in Zimbabwe. Research Report,
p18-9; CRLP (2001) Women of the World:
Laws and Policies Affecting Their
Reproductive Lives: Anglophone Africa. Progress Report, p130-52]
Girls are given "sex instructions" at
puberty by her father's sister (Aquina, 1967:p36).
Girls are "not so free in their childhood
than boys" (Carnegie et al., 1894:p88),
but no statements are made on sexual life.
According to Jones (1921),
the ugutomba (girl's initiation)
includes songs "of the lewdest description"; the author subjoins one example
but does not translate it.
Female informants assured that "there where no immoral practices in connection
with the ceremony of ogutomba in the
days of Mzilikazi", or rather, it would be punished by the chief. Later, rules
would be relaxed "and a good deal of immorality was connived at, if not
actually permitted". The intombi
(initiated) girl is placed in the charge of "a woman, who is responsible for
her moral behavior during a period of generally about two years, the intention
being to preserve the purity of the girl until she is married".
At least in a rural district of
Matabeleland, traditional sex education no longer takes place (Vos, 1994).
Shona practice of labial elongation is
called kusenga (Gelfand, 1973b;
1973a). It is
generally done at age eleven before the onset of menarche, sometimes mutual,
and particularly in rural areas (1979b:p19-20): "from at least the time of
menstruation, sometimes even from a year or two before". It is taught to girls
by older cousins and neighbours "at the first signs of puberty" (Williams,
1969), but it
may also started before menarche ([1967a]).
In one study ([1967a]) it was done by 13 of 29 girls. In the harvest season,
adolescents would be allowed a one-month period of play marriage in early
"adolescence"; supposedly, this does not include full intercourse (Gelfand,
and is actually "conducted on strict moral standards". It is called muhumbwe (or mahungwe)
and takes place in shelters (Gelfand, 1959:p183;
pairing off is supervised by parents, and occurs at about age ten
(1967a:p105-6; 1967b:62-3). In the formerly mentioned study, 9 of 21 boys and
23 of 29 girls said they played at this pretence marriage (p101).
Children sleep in the parental bedroom
until ages eight or nine. Sexual instruction of girls is provided by the
grandmother or parental aunt (Gelfand, [1973c]). From age fourteen on, the girl
is examined for virginity biannually (Gelfand, 1973a; 1979b:p19; [1967a:p100]),
a custom called kuenda kurukova. A
pubertal boy was warned for sex by his grandfather. His urine and semen was
examined to assess his potency, and to asses the necessity of special foods
(Gelfand, 1979a, 1985).
Herding the cattle, boys "may mimic" their act (Gelfand, 1979b:p17, 18).
Masturbation occurred in variable number of boys, but is discouraged.
Procreative heterosexuality is strongly emphasised in both sexes from "very
early age", and theirs is "safeguarded" by seniors.
is no attempt to deny knowledge, but this knowledge is only given at an age
when the boy or girl can appreciate it. Neither is told very much about the
sexual act until about 14. Before that in the early ages they are taught
cleanliness and modesty by their mothers and are encouraged to keep to their
own sex. As the child becomes a little older the grandfather tells the boy that
he will marry someday, but in the meantime he must not interfere with any girl
and the girl is taught similarly by her grandmother. The grandparents and
youngest aunt talk to the children freely on these matters. But even before
puberty stress is laid on the importance of marriage" (1967b:p62).
observed that boys learn sex from the paternal aunt, vatete. That is, "[…] about practical matters such as contraception
and also about sex: about what kinds of character to marry, the kinds of
pleasure which would stop women from leaving, and ways in which women could be
handled or controlled". From the maternal aunts, Shona boys "learnt about a
masculinity whose discourse centred on giving pleasure to women", including
knowledge about "medicinal plants" and "ideas about sexual prowess".
"From an early
age, boys engaged in games which were concerned with ensuring procreation in
adulthood. Certain fruits and pods signified potency and formed the basis for
activities which centred on notions of sexual competence. For example, the mumveva (Kigelia pinnata) fruit was regarded as signifying this kind of
masculinity. When the fruit was regarded in season, boys would bore a hole in
the young fruit, into which they would insert their penises. They would then
wait to see whether the fruit matured or died. If the fruit died or became
deformed, this signified a threat to their sexual potency. If it grew into
maturity, this was seen to result in sexual competence and an enlarged penis".
Boys do pissing games, and operate on
themselves to "free the foreskin" to win games, and because of "its association
with the passage of semen in adulthood. Boys who did not want to have this
operation were teased an laughed at; they were called "chickens", told that
they were not really boys and that all they wanted to do was to stay home and
look after chickens". The homosexual games are discontinued around pubescence,
after which it becomes a sign of homosexuality. Those who continued "were
called names alluding to bullocks with only one testicle, which are unable to
fend off other bulls that mount cows, and which were only able to mount oxen".
As boys were becoming of topic, girls faded in as long as they were still
allowed to swim together (thelarche). Pretence marriage (mahumbwe) "could at times end up provoking jealousies as it became
obvious that people were not just playing, but that something else was going
on". Biting beetles were used to promote thelopoesis.
to Kisembo et al. (1977:p125-6;
the only Shona-speaking people in Rhodesia who still practise traditional sex
education are the Nambyans. Women are known for their expertise on giving
sexual pleasure, and grandmothers together with "another old woman" instruct
the girl in coital techniques after menarche, which she is to imitate.
Medicines are given to regulate menses and to make her more attractive. "She is
instructed to abstain from sexual contact during her menstruations and she is
sent back home. There she begins tying beads around her waist for attraction.
Sex-education for Nambyan boys begins with their first wet dream". The boy eats
a cock with his grandfather, who tells him to refrain from sexual intercourse
over a period of four months, to allow medicines that are to make him "more
virile" to do their duty. If his grandfather is a medicine man, he might give
him more medicines for "sexual prowess" should he need it later in life
(Aquina, 1975, II:p11-3).
rural Mozambique, "[w]omen were often promised in marriage in infancy and in
some tribes child marriage was common" (Kruks and
"In northern Mozambique as elsewhere in
Southern Africa, the elongation of the small vaginal lips that used to make or
break a girl's initiation, was started when the girl was 8 or 9 years old
Harries (1944 )
gives a detailed account of Makonde initiation rites known as Jando (also Unyago). Without initiation, a woman is believed to be deprived of
the good prospect of a fruitful marriage, unclean. In the case of pregnancy
before initiation, occurring sometimes, she is deprived of the privilege of
initiation (p77), and forever known as anahaku
(a term for girls before initiation), and not classed with people of hr own
age-grade. Ciputu (first phase of female initiation) takes place usually before
menarche. A chief instructress (Bimkubwa,
grandmother) supervises preparations for vaginal distension in the first night
(p30). Sexual instructions are given (p35-6) and obscene songs are practised.
"Vaginal" distension (second night) is practised as in other Bantu (Bemba, Yao,
Makua), and is said to include the labia minora. The hymen is not ruptured. If
this is already the case, the Bimkubwa calls her mother and enquiries are made
as to the girl's conduct. Girls are told to manipulate themselves at home. More
complete "distension" takes place on the night of the mhyako. During Kulunda Inole,
water is poured over the pudenda (kukalawile,
p38-9), accompanied with songs. The meaning of vaginal distension is emphasised
once more (p41-2). At mhyako, "girls
are made familiar with the facts of sexual intercourse by the application of an
egg [?]. They are taught the motions of the sexual act. With red inumbati [...]
powder they are taught about the menses [...]". She is told about pubic
shaving. The egg is later broken on the forehead and the yolk is to run down
via the nose, not into the eyes for this would be indicative of her "future bad
character or of incontinence on the part of her relations during the conduct of
the rites" (p43). A month after the rites further sexual instructions are given
(p44) using symbolic representations. Afterwards, they are adults: "What
remains for tomorrow now is for you to be sought in marriage by a man. That's
Boys are circumcised, and a taboo on sexual
intercourse rests upon the boys until they are healed (p7, 18). At the rite,
boys are told about sexual purity, sexual disease through impurity and about
menstruation using symbolism (p27). This would occur at ages nine to sixteen.
In a note on the decursus of Jando, it is
mentioned that the "Christianised" Jando is "devoid of explicit sexual
instruction" (p135-6) (®Yao).
Contrary to Harries, Dias (1961)
mentions that a clay phallic object is used in defloration at the end of chiputu. Instructions are given by means
of song and explicit clay figurines (see Cory, 1948:p84-9, ill.),
including themes of defloration, conception, orgasmic timing, and intercourse
In Mozambique VaLenge, sexual instruction
was given by the mother, with assistance by the ritual leader (Earthy, 1925).
Dolls were used to illustrate topics such as physiology and sexuality. Ritual
defloration was carried out with a sacred horn. Earthy (1933 [1968:p150]):
"[…] if a marriage is consummated before a girl is physically fit, it is
considered a disgrace and a misfortune, and believed to bring illness and vene
death upon the girl".
are spoken in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville,
Congo-Kinshasa, Central African Republic, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi,
Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Comoro Islands, Angola, Namibia,
Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, and South Africa.
Ethnologists have provided general remarks (vide infra) on the early
sexual life of Bantu speakers. For this reason some tribes were tentatively
arranged according to linguistic (rather than geographic) classification. The
choice and argument involved have proved to be arbitrary, though, historically
speaking, perhaps not more arbitrary than a nationalist arrangement.
Bantu tribes are noted for their nonbloody
genital manipulations. Some girls try to widen [the vagina], for instance, by introducing
a sweet potato or a piece of cassava (Pelt, [1982:p183]).
A note on traditional age of consent:
"If the woman whom the man
desires to marry is past the age of puberty and is able to judge for herself as
to a man's parts, the man will first address himself to her. If the girl is
still a child he goes to her father and mother in the first place. The proposal
made, the father and mother discuss the matter. […] The "Bundle" [bride-price]
having been given to the assenting parents, when the time comes or the girl
arrives at the age of puberty, the bridegroom sends money to the parents so
that the girl may be placed in the "paint house", where she undergoes certain
rites of purification. […] When a man sleeps with a child not yet arrived at
the age of puberty (Xina Xinselo) and so causes the wrath of God and a drought
and consequent famine.".
briefly notes on the East African Bantu
tribes: "Curiously enough, several tribes permit sexual intercourse between
immature children and regard it in the light of play". Torday and Joyce
state that in the Ba-Mbala (Bantu) tribe, "[m]orality , in our sense of the
word, can scarcely be said to exist; virginity is not considered of the
slightest importance, consequently unmarried women indulge freely from a very
early age, even before they have reached maturity; one result of this is that
solitary and unnatural vices and prostitution are unknown; but, on the other
hand, sexual excess is having an evil effect upon the mental and physical
characters of the race. […] Males have intercourse at the age of about ten
years, the age of puberty; girls, from the age of six or seven, before
menstruation; the position adopted is usually side by side". Culwick
wrote: "It is common knowledge that in Bantu tribes sexual experience in one
form or another begins for the great majority of children before ever puberty
is reached, and certainly in some places it is, and has been for at least as
long as any can now remember, accepted practice for girls to have full sexual
intercourse for several years before their first menstruation. Yet some of
those self-same people will shut the girl away in rigorous confinement the
moment she reaches puberty". De Rachewiltz (1963[1964:p229]): "The Bantu boys
have sexual experience while still very young, and the girls also have usually
had experiences before adolescence".
Around Johannesburg, Longmore (1959:p173-5)
play at marriage from very early years. I have seen children in Eastern Native
Township from five years of age playing as bride and bridegroom, who must
always be members of the opposite sex. They dress up and build rude shelters as
houses and then play at sleeping together. Older children who are also playing
with them will tell the very young ones to play sexually because they are man
and wife. The reason that children understand about sex at such early ages in
urban areas is on account of severe overcrowding. […] They immediately copy
their elders and parents, who seem surprised that children can be so
precocious, and fail to realize that the fault lies with them. Whenever the
children in the township play "housey-housey", they always imitate the sex act.
From information given me by teachers and parents, children begin to court each
other when very young. Stories indicate that children indulge in intercourse
almost as soon as they discover the facts of life, which come to their notice
in the overcrowded township at a very early age. One teacher told me that at Eastern
native Township every evening he chases children away from the trees in front
of his house, his reasons being that they are too young to have sex relations".
Other teachers, however, would deflower
premenstrual girls. Krige (1937:p109)
stated: "Bantu children, even before puberty, indulge in play at sexual
intercourse; but this is either connived at or looked upon with amusement and
toleration by adults, because it can have no social consequences". Again, "[…]
sex play among small children [is] connived at […]" (Krige and Krige, 1954:p79).
Van der Vliet (1974:p223)
notes that house playing among Bantu children is common, and in case of the Lobedu,
Venda and Pedi leads to highly formalised imitation of marital
life, in miniature villages. Sexual intercourse would be rigidly forbidden in
the Pedi "village" (p242n11), but Krige and Krige (1947:p109)
mention "play intercourse" among the Lobedu. Hunter (1953 [1960:p180-4])
relates that a girl would be ridiculed if she did not have lovers, and is taught
how to avoid defloration. Periodical examination is performed by old women.
Paradoxically, girls' seclusion hut becomes an attractant for youth of both
Steyn and Rip (1968:p511)
found that among urban South African Bantu families, very few parents provided
any sex education for their children. Most girls had sexual experiences before
age 15, and multiple partners were common for both sexes.
implies that a boy may (want to) marry when he "comes to puberty". Although
"guided" by friends and family, the choice is free on both sides.
According to Roscoe,
"[t]here are no [marriage] arrangements between the young people until after
puberty; the advances are made by the men, who approach the women, though there
is no notion of love between the parties. It is purely a financial transaction
between the elders or parents of the couple, though a man seeks to find a woman
who is strong and able to work to be his partner" (p182-3). Boys and girls are
initiated with genital operations (circumcision, labiotomy); after the evening
dances that follow "[…] there is the fullest license given to both sexes, men
and women have promiscuous intercourse without any restraint" (p187). Boys and
girls are nude until the initiation/puberty.
Betrothal takes place in childhood,
marriage is to await puberty and initiation (Prins, 1952:p123;
Kyewalyanga, 1977:p43). The girl is not informed, and she is kidnapped by four
men, bridegroom included, who are all allowed to cohabit with her. "This will
be the first time the future husband is allowed to do so, as he has had to
avoid her until then, though premarital intercourse is always allowed between
members of corresponding age groups of opposite sex".
Laubscher (1937:p76, 77-8, 79-80)
states that boys of twelve begin to decorate the sex organs, which is to draw attention
to it. No sexual instructions are given to boys. "They roam about in
association with the animals they herd and learn their lessons from these
sources and companions. In fact, unnatural sex relations with animals are not
at all uncommon at this period [adolescence]. If a boy is observed in such an
act, he is punished by corporal punishment. [sic] […] Masturbatory manipulations of the penis are quite common
and may receive a playful rebuke, but are not viewed at all seriously. They are
merely considered as playful activities of children. At the age of fifteen and
when nearing the age period (usually eighteen years) for the Abakweta ceremony, masturbation in the
youngster will create concern if it comes to the notice of the elders, because
it is considered as evidence of immaturity and hence unfitness for the Abakweta ceremony". Girls are not
instructed in sexual matters, but are frequently warned against sexual
relations. Customary examination of the female sex organs is instituted "from
about the age of twelve years, even before the onset of menstruation" or "since
early girlhood", for which phenomenon the girls are instructed. Examination
occurs every three days (p78, 80), later by a specially appointed female at
significant events. Metsha, intercrural
intercourse, "is performed by boys and girls at an early age and may serve as
an early form of hetero-sexual adaptation. It certainly does not, at the
prepubertal period, replace masturbation. Some observers and informants place
the ages for the beginning of metsha somewhere
about ten or eleven, if not earlier. In fact many native males state they
started to metsha at such an early
age that they could not remember". The attitude of parents toward metsha is
dualistic: fathers pretend not to know, mothers warn their daughters against
it. It takes place in a separate children's hut. Parents prevent children
observing their intercourse, because they "must never have reason to think that
sexual relations occur between the parents".
In a black township near Pretoria, of 105
pre-marital mothers it was established that 20 per cent had engaged in sexual
relationships before "puberty"; of these 105, 90% were forbidden to go out
alone with boys, 82% were forbidden to go out alone in the evenings, 89% were
forbidden to receive boys at home, and 51% were forbidden to go out in a group,
all before puberty (Rip and Schmidt,
Attitudes on premarital sexuality were quite evenly divided. In one study (Du
the youngest age of coitarche was nine, and about two in three black
schoolgirls had had coitus by age 15. In a study among rural Transkei
adolescents (Buga et al., 1996),
boys initiated sexual activity at an earlier age than girls (13.43 vs 14.86 years,
p=0.0000). To put these figures in
perspective, menarche and semenarche occurred at 13.90 +/- 1.23 and 15.12 +/-
1.58 years. In a later survey among female university students (Buga, 1998),
subjects indicated having initiated sexual activity [intercourse] at a mean age
of 17.27 +/- 2.18 years. A 1999 survey in South Africa among 796 adolescent
girls in KwaZulu Natal, first sexual intercourse took place at a mean age of 16
Among 1063 sixth-grade students (average age: 13.6 years), 17% initiated sexual
intercourse during the previous year (Klepp et al., 1997).
According to a recent study,
girls were generally thought to have sex at an earlier age than boys, although
the estimated average age for them was only slightly lower than for boys (15.3
years for girls, compared to 15.7 years for boys). The lowest age was 7; 1% had
their "first sexual encounter" under age 10, which paralleled expectations.
However, a considerable expectation for sexarche at ages 11-12 (11% boys, 17%
girls) was not met with indications about personal pasts (only 2% indicated
sexarche in both categories). Only 1% indicated receiving information about
"sexual health issues" from a "traditional practitioner".
Girls in Johannesburg had only minimal sex
education from their mother at menarche (Hellmann, 1935).
This may not have changed much, as cited by Morrell:
is little talk about sex between parents and children - and children fear
beatings if they admit to being sexually active (Unicef/NPPCHN, 1997, 27).
There is very little communication between parents and children. Mothers assume
that when girls have boyfriends, they will be engaging in sex and send them to
the clinic for contraception. But there is no talking about this
(Unicef/NPPHCN, 1997, 74)".
Chastity and modesty would be the
highlights of Hindu children's moral upbringing in South Africa (Kuper,
Pre-initiation sex and marriage are more
punished than premarital sex and marriage (Jules-Rosette, 1980).
In the past, "sex play without penetration (ukumetfha) was an established part
of the relations between girls and boys, and the custom of regularly examining
girls for virginity secured a measure of parental control. The latter custom
has fallen into disuse, however, as has the custom of including an additional
beast among the marriage cattle in respect of a bride whose virginity was
intact" (Wilson, 1952:p95).
In adolescent sexual learning, an important
role is reserved for mass media, especially TV and magazines, although friends also
constituted a significant source of information.
drawing from informal colloquia with Cape Town adolescents, found that parents
generally do not welcome other-sex visits or stays at home, and sexual
discussions with parents are avoided as a form of "respect". Nevertheless,
"[g]irls are sexually active, often from the age of thirteen" (p38).
Some data on childhood sexual experiences
are collected in Gevisser and Cameron's Defiant
Desire on gay
and lesbian lives in South Africa.
A 1992 survey of 7,000 adolescents found
that 17 percent had engaged in sexual intercourse, with a median age of 15
years at first intercourse (Cooper et al. 1994).
According to a study of first intercourse and contraceptive experiences of
1,737 black South Africans conducted during their first year in a university
male respondents' mean age at first intercourse was 15.5 years and their
partners' age was 14.5 years old.
argued that "[t]here is no literature or data pertaining to autoerotic behavior
and patterns in South African children, adolescents, or adults".
Focusing on adolescent black children and
teenagers, Preston-Whyte and Zondi found that both boys and girls admitted
experiencing sex before their 12th or 13th year.
Some had experienced penetration before they reached physical maturity. By age
13, most had been sexually active, if not regularly, then at least on a number
of occasions. Full penetration was the rule.
The following findings regarding
intrafamilial communication about sex in South Africa were obtained in 1990
from 1,902 black first-year students at a South African university (Nicholas
Thirty-eight percent of respondents indicated that they had received no sex
information from their mothers; 8.2 percent of females and only 3.8 percent of
males indicated that they received much information from mothers. As expected,
65.5 percent of respondents indicated that fathers had given no sex
information; 4.5 percent, 3.1 percent of males and 1.4 percent of females,
reported their fathers provided much sex information.
Sixty-two percent of respondents indicated
that they received no sex information at primary school, whereas only 10.9
percent indicated that they received no sex information at high school. Guidance
teachers seem to provide much of the sex information at school, with 30.3
percent of respondents indicating that they received much information from
Late 19th century South-African boarding
school experienced the problems with this type of scholastic system as
anywhere. "Initiation into the "under-life" of the reformatory could be through
homosexual rape, while younger boys were soon drafted into service, sexual and
otherwise, for older boys. Masturbation and homosexuality were common, while
fagging, a common boarding school phenomenon, also appears to have been in
practice […]" (Chisholm, 1986:p490).
Despite the "repressive puritan stance towards
adolescent sexuality" that came with the advent of Bantu Education in 1953,
"[f]ormer primary school pupils claimed that their sexual biographies began
fairly early in their lives. 'Many primary school boys had sex', I was told.
'They were above thirteen and had already been circumcised. The girls agreed.
They also enjoyed sex' " (Niehaus).
[Additional refs: Swart-Kruger and Richter (1997);
CRLP (2001) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their
Reproductive Lives: Anglophone Africa. Progress Report, p90-112]
"Kaffir" / Kafir (Bantu;
is, AmaZulu, Ama-Swazi, Ama-Tonga, and Kaflirs proper, represented by Ama-Xosa,
Tembu, Pondo) [up] [Contents] [Geographic Index] [Ethnographic
After the seclusion of a Kafir girl at
puberty she is allowed to cohabit with anyone during the festivals that follow;
Kafir boys after being circumcised may have connection with any unmarried
females they can persuade.
work on "Kafir" (Pondo) childhood appears void of sex.
Zulu childhood heterosexual masturbation was
said to be encouraged in the late nineteenth-century (e.g., Eskapa, 1987:p45).
Krige (1936 [1950:p78]):
"[…] Zulu children at an early age not only know a good deal about sex, but
themselves indulge in playful sexual intercourse (ukwenza isiNcogolo).
Small girls when out alone, on seeing a boy often call out to him in a singing
manner words intended as an enticement to him for sexual purposes". Unwin
on the Amazulu, stated that "a special term existed, u(lu)ngqoyingqoyi (lit., "delicious food") which small girls, when
out alone and seeing a boy, called out to him, the words being intended as an
enticement to him to come to them for sexual purposes". Reader (1966:p138-9)
only speaks of sex instruction, "when the time for lovemaking came". The Zulu
valued hymenal virginity, and puberty songs were to instruct the girl (Krige,
established form of external intercourse with a single lover was called ukusoma. Songs and dances in girls'
initiation refer to sexual acts, menstruation, and premarital morality. The
traditional form of sexual instruction for young girls was, until recently,
carried out by a designated female elder, but the subject may have been taboo
at home (Loening, 1981).
Spermarche and menarche are considered significant events, requiring special
hygienic measures (Lugg, 1907:p116).
Lautenschlager (1963:p66): "Verbreiten waren […] sexuellen Spielereien. Die
Zulu kannten in geschlechtlichen Dingen wenig Zurückhaltung, so daþ die Kinder
schon früh darüber Bescheid wuþten und sich im Spiel nachzuahmen. Der Umstand,
daþ die Erwachsenen nuer einen kleinen Lendenschurz und die Kinder gar nichts
oder nur eine Perlenschnur um die Lenden trugen, begünstigte diese
sketches the following "development":
"With the Zulus,
boys especially, and in a lesser degree girls, manifest the sexual instinct of
sensual desire (as yet unconsciously and sexlessly) sometimes as early as their
third years […] by the eighth or ninth, sex selection and sexual magnetism are
strongly experienced and displayed […] This preference for the opposite sex and
a certain aversion toward its own, had been constant since the fifth or sixth
year. So, about this time most small boys and girls commenced to "court" each
other and choose secret paramours, partly in imitation (for they were most
observant, as well as imitative) of their elder brothers and sisters".
instructress is a girl of nineteen or twenty years old and supervises the
ritual seclusion (Cheetam et al., 1974).
Adolescent girls are periodically examined for virginity. In a study on urban
Zulu schoolchildren by Graig and Richter-Strydom (1983),
the earliest coital experience occurred at age twelve. Two in three had had
coitus before age sixteen. 82% of pregnant girls had not known anything about
menstruation at the time of onset. "As the age of onset of sexual intercourse
roughly paralleled the onset of menstruation, one can assume that the majority
of the young girls who later became pregnant had little sexual knowledge by the
time they first had intercourse" (p242-3). Zulu children and adolescents were
said to be engaged in external intercourse (ukuhlobongo),
but were punished if the girl was deflowered (Rip and Schmidt, 1977:p21).
The act of circumcision, "a ritual
preparation for its legitimate use in reproductive activities", was anticipated
by Zulu herdboys who cut the frenum (Raum, 1973:p277).
Boys' puberty ritual (ukuthomba),
after ejacularche, implies a plethora of sexual restraints (p278); the same for
girls (p281, 282). Initial courtship routines are strictly regulated (p284-9).
Girls may play games such as choosing a lover (ukumema injenga).
"In Zulu communities, as accurate accounts show, sexual intercourse is not
uncommon among children under the age of puberty" (Schoeman, 1975:p33).
Grützner (Ploß and Bartels, I:p392;
Bloch, 1902, I:p254)
noted among the Basuto, "neben der sanctionierten Hurerei eine Heimliche, welche
die kleinsten Kinder, treiben, und wobei die Knaben den Mädchen perlen,
Messingdraht, u.s.w. als Hurenlohn geben".
"[…] [i]n early youth, no notice is taken of a boy playing with his penis; this
they do quite openly and unself-consciously. They also play a game of "cows",
in which one boy chases, rounds up and rides another one, who runs on all
fours, and then having "kraaled" him, milks him by pulling his penis as though
it were a teat. This game is played by children from one and a half years old
to anything up to about ten, and is rarely interrupted by adults. Some mothers
try to promote the development of his sex organs by fondling the child's penis
and encouraging him to do so himself, though others disapprove of this, saying
it makes the child too interested in sex". The girls are reared more strictly.
"Ordinarily they do not take any obvious notice of the sexual organs of the
boys playing around them, but a small girl of about five or six got exceedingly
embarrassed when a naked boy of about two reversed up to her on all fours and
asked her to "milk" him […]". Despite a code against premarital liberties, "[…]
there is good evidence that some children's sexual experience begins even
before puberty"(p40). "Formal sex instruction" may precede puberty initiation
of Basutoland, South Africa, are expected to attire themselves with rings of
braided grass and cowhide, and white clay rubbed on their bodies and legs.
These young girls are first instructed for a period of some weeks in the
details of sexual intercourse, after which they are circumcised--that is, the
clitoris is amputated. This is done to prevent them from engaging in
promiscuous sexual activity when they are married. As part of this rite, they
act out coital positions with each other".
found that the former custom of prenatal betrothal of girls was replaced by
marriage based on mutual consent. "The shepherd-boys of the Tswana frequently
have intercourse with their flocks, but are punished if caught in the act" (De
Rachewiltz (1963 [1964:p283]). Girls received "extensive sex role training"
(particularly including "passive obedience") at ages 10-13 when they attended
The girl was internally inspected, after which her hymen was pierced with a
Thereafter, the initiates were "explicitly taught about sex by their tutor-by
custom a widow.
The girls learned "licentious" songs, which missionaries believed were
corrupting the soul. Boys of the age-group after 8 are "allowed considerable
freedom in conduct, especially in matters of sex" (Schapera, [1991:p32]).
The male Mochuana (Becwana tribes) "is warned that sexual intercourse among
the uncircumcised has the same connecting effect as when dogs indulge in it-
that the internal organs of the woman are drawn out of her and many similar
things too disgusting to mention" (Brown, 1921:p421).
Willoughby (1909) stated that, for boys and girls, one of the requirements for
officiating in the initiation ceremony was chastity for the previous four
years; also, they had to adhere to a four-year period of chastity after the
observed how clothing provides "a visible mode of social control outlining
until weaned (in the third year) have their bodies most fully exposed.
Recognized as sexually innocent, they have nothing to hide. Their nakedness
reveals their purity at the same time that grown men and women are permitted to
comment on both the physical beauty and sexual potential. When slightly older
(approximately 3-6) sex differentiation is made culturally conspicuous. Little
girls may continue to wear only a string of beads around the hips and little
boys may be given a lijobo, a garment of two triangular flaps, one
before and one aft[er], cut from the pelt of a specific wild animal. […] From
before puberty the genitals are conspicuously hidden".
In Swasiland, "[t]here are overlapping
stages and categories of sexual relationships, which often begin with
traditional puberty rites that may be regarded as legitimizing sexual activity,
and are often followed by several subsequent stages of pre-marital relations.
"Since he slept in the same hut as
his parents, Manjenga knew as a child what was meant by sexual love-making.
When he reached the age of puberty he moved from his mother's into the
bachelor's hut on the outskirts of the kraal, and was permitted-indeed,
encouraged- to start love-making himself, within certain limits. Swazi parents
instruct their children in a kind of sexual activity between boy and girl
without actual intercourse, known as kujuma. Full sexual
penetration before marriage is considered shameful, all the more so if the girl
is made pregnant".
provided some data concerning the age of first homosexual experience and age of
Circumcision rituals take place at age
eight to ten, rarely over 14 or 15 (White, 1983).
Ritual non-penetrative homosexual play is expected of the novices with the
genitals of the ceremonial officials. Sexual instruction and obscenity occur in
the ceremonial lodge.
Pedi parents speak freely about and perform
sex before their children until they reach the age of three years, when "the
child cannot be influenced (xa a bone)
Infant masturbation is verbally discouraged. "Childish" sex play is viewed
tolerantly but, after age six, boys and girls are informally separated although
the "occasional promiscuity" is taken for granted by adults unless pregnancy
occurs. Like among the ®Trobrianders,
children form "juvenile communities" where "nurses usually make the boys and
girls in their care to have sexual intercourse while they hysterically laugh at
the process. Some nurses allow the small boys to practice on themselves. The
only sexual taboo that exists among them is that between brother and sister.
[…] Adults are not unaware of these juvenile experiments, but they generally
look upon them as a harmless pastime, "so long as discipline is enforced upon
them when the time comes" ". The games are called Mokutelano (Hide-and-Seek), and Mantlantlwane (cf. K&K, 1947:p109, Mandwane), which includes wife-exchange
in anticipation of the adult custom. When puberty is attained, total abstinence
from intercourse is the proscribed rule,
and the girl is to withstand the male's natural inclination to sex. To insure
chastity, parents may make the boy eat a herb causing painful haematuria.
Nevertheless, seduction is common with any resulting pregnancy bringing social
stigma and censure upon the girl and her parents. "Childish" temporary
pseudo-marriage unions, although little more than a game, are frequent, and
recognised by adults as a social institution which provides practice in home
management. Although usually dissolved when the "pseudo-husband" enters lodika, a form of tribal initiation
school, the union may be revived with the consent of both sets of parents.
Sexual intercourse in rigidly forbidden in the Pedi play village (Van der
Vliet, 1974:p242, n11). Ford and Beach (1951:p182) state that
intercourse before puberty ceremonies is strictly forbidden. Mönning
states that the Pedi, as do the ®Zulu and ®Venda, practice external intercourse, a matter denied by Harries
are betrothed in infancy, and joined at girl's age of 12, a matter of which she
is frequently reminded. Marriage takes place after the one-year native school.
If by then a boy is not old enough to take her as a wife, she is "looked after"
by his maternal uncle until he is (hlapetsha).
In the girls' school, a matron instructs the girls on matrimonial morality (or
rather, principles "hardly fit for publication") (p77). On boys' initiation, it
is stated: "It is generally understood that all manner of lewd instruction,
pertaining to sexual matters, is given at the bodikane ,
but this has been emphatically denied, and the assurance given that the
opposite sex may never be mentioned by or to the initiates" (p71); anyhow, the
rite would have been threatened through contact with Europeans (p65).
As with the Bemba, it is considered
disgraceful for a girl to be impregnated before the puberty ceremony, and if
this occurs she has difficulty in finding a desirable husband, and may have to
marry an old man or a foreigner.
The Tonga have a female but no male initiation (Colson, 1958:p181-9);
the anatomical indicators are thelarche or menarche (and contemporarily, school
schedules), no instruction takes place, and the girl is thereafter considered
adult ("Now you are grown we want you to stop using obscenity and abusing
instruction on sexual matters is given in a normal [sic] fashion by older
people to children, at least as far as I could learn. Instead, they are
expected to acquire such information by casual observation in a community where
little attempt is made to hide from them any of this side of life. Children
sleep in their parents' hut, and small children may share the family bed. Boys
commonly move out at about the age of seven or eight, either to the kitchen or
to join older boys in the huts they have built for themselves. Girls either
remain with their parents until marriage, or they go to sleep in the house of
some old woman. […] Children not barred from sexual experimentation. Small boys
and girls masturbate without any notice being taken of it by older people, and
small boys occasionally engage in mutual masturbation in public. That some
stigma may attach to the practice, however, is suggested by the reaction of a
child if someone comments on the matter. Two little girls giggled when they saw
a four-year-old masturbating and announced, "John pulls himself (ku-li-kwela)". At this the child set up
a howl and rushed off in tears, while the two imps giggled with delight at the
uproar they had caused. Heterosexual play also occurs, though I do not know how
prevalent it is. Children from four of five on tease one another about their
lovers. […] There may have been some disapproval in the past of serious sexual
play if this came to light at the time when the child had to face the rite in
which the front upper teeth were removed shortly before puberty. If the
operator found that the teeth did not come out cleanly with a single blow of
the chisel, he would announce that the child had been indulging in sexual
intercourse and make it announce the name of its lover, whereupon the
recalcitrant teeth were expected to give to the chisel. The operator then
presented himself to the child's guardians with a demand for payment of damages
for having had to deal with a troublesome subject. […] Full sexual life […]
should not begin for girls until after their puberty ceremony. A child
conceived before this time was malweza,
and formerly destroyed. […] After puberty, sexual experimentation continues,
though now very often with full adults" (p271-5).
Adolescent boys may have thelarchic girls
as lovers but adult sex with prepubescents in either configuration is said to
cause a disease (cinsiluwe) in both
parties; even deafness and prepubertal death would be attributed to seduction.
Girls begin to enlarge the labia majora before puberty, and continue till
after. [Among the Tsonga tribe of Mozambique and northern
Transvaal, the female puberty initiation rite involves "having the girls pair
up to stretch each others labias, performing tasks symbolizing women's
horticultural duties, and ritual defloration with a musical kudu horn".
Tsonga Musevhetho initiation includes
the rite 'u kwevha' (cf. ®Bemba), which involves elongation
of the girls' labia minora, which is referred to as 'milevhe'. The role of this
initiation school according to Xitlhabana in Milubi (2000:p59-60)
is to gratify men's unsatiable sexual appetite: the longer the size of the
elongation, the better wives.] Girls
eagerly await thelarche, but disclaim using medicines. Ciccatrizations,
considered erotogenic and included in foreplay, is prohibited below the age of
puberty. The children use beautifying medicines, as do adults, and with their
silent approval. According to Kisembo et al. (1977:p126; Aquina, 1975, II:p24), "[...] Tonga youths do not receive any sex instruction at all. Fathers
merely tell their sons about the responsibilities of a husband and father
around a fire at night and that is all! No direct sex-instructions are given.
Washing in cold water once on an early morning without shivering is the only
test a young man is given by his father or guardian to ascertain whether he is
now grown up and fit to court girls and eventually marry. No sex-instruction is
given to the girl either. At her first menstruation she is considered of
marriageable age". Marriage negotiations may begin well before the girl's
Infants are welcomed into the family by tying a string
around his waist smeared with his father's semen.
Following circumcision (ages 10-16), boys enter the sungi seclusion, where sexual intercourse is forbidden, but
obscenities are recommended (Junod, I, 1962:p80; see also [1927:p172-3]).
Among the western Tonga, a boy could be initiated into sexual intercourse by a
paid "experienced" woman (Colson, p275). The Ngoma (circumcision school),
however, does not relate to sexual life (p94). After boy's polluarche, a man is
said to have become an adult. Medicines may be administered to the boy that
will prevent him from being overcome by them (the Custom of the Erotic Dream,
Tilorela; p95). After the puberty rites, boys and girls, who live in separate
huts, play Gangisa, a marriage
game including hut-building, and play "in a less platonic fashion" (p97-9),
which may be intercrural intercourse (Harries, 1990:p459-60; 1994:p200-1). A
girl may solicit for intercourse. "A boy how has no such flirt, no shigango ,
is laughed at as a coward; a girl who refuses to accept such advances is
accused of being malformed". In fact, "If a boy has not been successful in his
"gangisa", if he is despised by the girls and has no chance of being accepted",
special rite is needed to help him find a wife. The girl is passed from
asexuality to sexuality by the Khomba nubility rite, when she "comes of age"
(I, p176-8). "They are also instructed in sexual matters, and told that they
must never reveal anything about the blood of the menses to a man". The girls
make an apron (p182).
A scene of boy prostitution seemed to have existed in
early 20th century Johannesburg, including (a few) little boys to men in their
twenties (Junod, I, p492-5); the natives "speak of it with laughter".
Males are circumcised, the age is not
exactly given (Brownlee, 1931).
"I cannot say more of their motions in dancing than that they were suggestive
of procreative ability; this idea, indeed, might be applied to the movements of
all the dancers, male and female, throughout the ceremony". In Fingoland,
was informed that during the seclusion at the menarchal/thelarchal initiation
rite (often performed later), a girl's hymen "is perforated by means of an ox
horn, and that the same instrument is used for extending the labia majora, the idea being by this
means to make intercourse more pleasurable, and fruitfulness more certain".
"Teenagers reported that their first sexual
encounters occurred at a young age, usually around 13 or 14 years (but as young
as 11). In the majority of cases male partners (the first and subsequent) were
said to be older than the girls by about five years […]".
Mayer and Mayer (1970:p175)
stated: "Early sex play is regarded indulgently by adults, including the play
of children out herding who "learn" by seeing animals mate and "may try to copy
them". "All this is only childishness". The boy is rather a "bull"
(unsocialised) than an "ox" (socialised sexuality) (Mayer and Mayer, 1990:p37).
In an illustrative paper by Ntlabati et al
(cf. Kelly and Parker, 2000:p31-3)
adolescents construe their coitarche in contradistinction to sexual games,
including undize, or coital
"hide-and-seek" (cf. Vol. II, §18.104.22.168).
Identifying a multifactorially determined "shift away from parental mediation
of sexual enculturation towards a youth and peer-based framework for the same",
Ntlabati, Kelly and Mankayi (2001; note how Undize,
as traditionally played in a deep rural area of the Eastern Cape in South
Africa by children aged 7 to the early teens, acquired a coital, as well as a
more invariably sexual, level over the past 50 years. This has strained the
definition of curricular categories:
"[…] there used to be a
strong distinction between sexual experimentation and sexual intercourse. This
distinction appears to have blurred so that sexual experimentation much more
rapidly evolves into intercourse, to the extent that Undize now involves sexual penetration, albeit somewhere between
experimentation and fully-fledged, passion-driven intercourse".
Thus, while "[l]earning about sex through
play is hardly unusual, but in this case the play tends towards reality". This
discourse is suggested by the respondents persistent minimalising of the
Female: "[…] it was nothing serious at that stage [12 a 13 to 15]" / "[…] it was not really
serious. There was penetration but there was no ejaculation. We were just doing
it and we didn't even experience any form of pleasure. Hence I say it was
nothing serious". Male: "I was 15 and this was nothing serious. We were just
ramifications are significant enough to put data such as "[a]n astonishing 22%
had their first sexual experience at or below the age of 11 years" on misty
grounds (note that the authors do not define their measure of "sexual debut").
account of Xhosa coitarche performances and negotiations leaves out games
entirely, instead identifying intercourse as a performance of "love" and
sexual encounters were mostly reported to have occurred at a young age, often
12 years, with a male partner who was older by about five years. The
consistently reported pattern was that women accepted male requests to
establish a liaison, as revealed in the words 'he asked me if we could love
each other and then I agreed'. To these young women, agreement to love was
equated specifically with having penetrative intercourse and being available
sexually. This equation clearly derived from their male partners, who told the
women that sex was the 'purpose' of being 'in love', that people 'in love' must
have sex 'as often as possible', and that sexual intercourse was 'what
grown-ups do'. These constructions of love, apparently defined entirely by men,
constituted the major reason to begin and continue sexual activity for the
However, the researchers
(1997) note that
"[m]any of the adolescents described sex as 'playing'. One girl explained that
some teenagers (particularly those from poor families) had sex frequently
because there were no other activities available to them: 'it starts with the
girls because we are lost. You just do a thing, not thinking about the
after-effects; it's nice to go with boys' ". Adding to the confusion, male
adolescents' sexuality discourse is complicated with themes of violence and
infidelity, boys arguing they are "played with"
by girls in their love trajectories.
With puberty the children must learn to
refrain from any mention or hint of sexual things in their parents' presence
[…] it is merely the hlonipha
(respect behaviour) due to parents. Girls in the intutu grades- pre-adolescent or barely adolescent- are already
learning about the permissibility of metsha,
external sexual intercourse. Invariably this instruction is said to be given by
the older girls and never on any account by the mother, for hlonipha reasons". Until marriage,
keeping to metsha is a cardinal rule
of youthful sex "play" (p175-8). Among the Xhosa, children are never told about
conception, and only seldom witness parental coitus. Males are circumcised at
ages 18-22, after which they are told "the laws" (incl. adultery prohibition)
by "the old men" (Laidler, 1922).
Premarital virginity is important, marriage occurs at about age 15. Girls must
not eat eggs for it would lead to promiscuity (Ames and Daynes, 1974).
"Children were never told about contraception. They seldom witnessed parental
intercourse and if they did so inadvertently, they were frightened by the
"fighting". When children asked where the baby came from, they were told that
it was bought from the shop or the hospital, "because you should not each a
child bad things. If the child is clever and not satisfied with this answer, or
has seen sheep giving birth, we tell him that children are born from the knees
of the mother because we don't want them to think that giving birth and going
to the toilet are the same thing. The difference between the sexes that is
clear to all semi-naked toddlers is usually "explained" by the older children
to the younger, the penis often being referred to as ncolosi (the Xhosa name for St. Lucy's Hospital). A girl may take
hold of a boy's penis, saying she would like to have it. "This is how
intercourse begins". Girls are seldom told about menstruation before the
menarche", and interpret it as traumatic. Girls are not usually told about
menstruation until it occurs (age 14). Indeed, only 2 of 30 rural schoolgirls
(mean age 17.8) claimed to have had any sex education at school (O'Mahony,
earliest admitted "sexual experience" was 14, mean age of first 16.4.
[Additiona refs.: Collins, T. & Stadler, J. (2001) Love,
Passion and Play: Sexual Meaning among Youth in the Northern Province of South
Africa. Paper presented at International Conference, AIDS in Context, April 4-7, University of the Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg, South Africa. Cf. Ibid, J Anthropologues [Montrouge] 82-83:325-37]
Pauw (1963:p111-3, 114, 115, 116)
states that in East London "[s]exual activity commonly starts at an early age,
long before marriage". Intercrural intercourse was permitted to unmarried
people to avoid premarital pregnancy. However, the majority of town Bantu
accept full sexual intercourse as a normal feature of premarital relations. The
majority of girls was not prepared for menstruation. After menarche girls are
told the possibility of pregnancy. "Other mothers only gave a vague warning not
to play or laugh with boys, because they are "dangerous", "mischievous",
"cruel", or "rough". A few girls claimed that they did not realize the
significance of their condition when they became pregnant". One girl was told
that babies are bought at the market. "Sex instruction was not discussed in
detail with boys, but it is our impression that in the home they get even less
of this than girls. Admonitions during initiation may include warnings against
making girls pregnant, and immodesty (e.g., not to embrace a girl in view of
older people), but there is no evidence of any instruction in sexual technique
as part of the initiation ceremonies in town. This the boys [...] learned from
the older ones". "Children start having "sweethearts", "boy-friends" or
"girl-friends", "cherries" (girls), or iintokazi
(lit., female things) from 10 or 11 years onwards". This varies in intensity.
The early timing of the "love-making" is attributed by the respondents to the
freedom associated with single-parent household, giving way to unsupervised
interplay; others referred to the compromised privacy of the home causing
"their being aware of their parents' sexual relations from an early age". "Intensive
petting- referred to as unkuncokolisa
(to excite sexually), uku-phathaphatha
(the intensive form of the verb ukuphatha,
to touch or feel), or by the English word "romance", used both as noun and
verb- and with it sexual intercourse, are often part of a love-affair from an
early age. Cases of pregnancy are known to occur from 12 years age and onward.
Among the informants 14 was the youngest age at which one of them first
experienced sexual intercourse. From 16 onwards most young people have love-affairs
in which intercourse is a common element". However, there is a deal of
interindividual variability. Some have multiple simultaneous lovers: a major
one (makhonya, known lover), and a
"minor" one (osecaleni, "one on the
A girl may marry at puberty, but usually
this is delayed until age 15-18 (O'Connell, 1982).
Not having a boy- or girlfriend is ridiculed.
Infant betrothal is practised but marriage is
delayed until puberty. Premarital sexuality is unusual, and if it occurs,
linked to marital plans (Mathews, 1940).
Sex education was offered to girls at
marriageable age by older girls. Prenuptial examinations of the girls by old
women (Jaques, 1931).
speaks of girl betrothal when "very little" and prenatal; but this is not
observed that the among the Venda of the Sibasa district of the Northern
Transvaal (South Africa) a woman's labia minora must be lengthened by
manipulation. "This operation is begun often long before puberty,
its importance is emphasised at vhusha [puberty school], and it must be stopped
after a girl has attended tshikanda [intermediary initiation school between
vhusha and pre-marital schools]".
"By the time they attend domba, girls are
supposed to have given up the practice of lengthening the labia minora and to
have turned their minds to the serious matters of marriage and child-birth.
These words of criticism are said by youths who laugh at big girls who still
practice kwevha [elongation]" (®Tsonga):
a songo tamba,
mona na nnu a lila,
tshi elelwa zwo ita vhawe.
Makwevho ndi mavhulaise,
Vhasidzana vha litshe u
kwevha! (Vhasidzana litshani u kwevha!)
Zwi ea vhuhole shangoni.
dina nga u holefhadza.
When a girl has not yet
played with a boy,
She goes behind the hut and
Thinking of what others have
Playing at kwevha will be the
death of you,
Stop lengthening your labia,
It cripples the country.
It causes trouble by making
"From the beginning of vhusha
to the end of domba, we move from the initial climaxes of individual girls
experiencing the first signs of sexual maturity through a series of measured
stages, to a final, massive climax in which the community participated in the
symbolic rebirth of itself through the corporate rebirth of the novices. […]
The initiation cycle was a system of formal education designed to follow the
informal education of childhood (Blacking 1964b). But it was also a sensuous
bodily experience that was considered essential for the well-being of each
individual body and the whole human and natural environment. It was a
productive technique of the body (cf. Marcel Mauss) for the purpose of
reproduction. But although there was much explanation of sexual matters, it was
not a system of education primarily concerned with the actual techniques of
reproduction. The most important lesson of domba and of the other initiation
schools was the instruction about the institutions and responsibilities of
motherhood, fatherhood, and marriage. Thus, if a girl became pregnant during
domba, she was not praised for succeeding in what the school might have seemed
to be teaching: she was thrown out in disgrace! […] Girls undoubtedly express a
desire for esoteric knowledge when they say "we go to domba [or vhusha etc.]
because we want to 'learn the laws' " (u guda milayo): and indeed they learn
much about etiquette and the correct social and sexual behaviour of married
women, although in many cases the instruction confirms what has already been
learnt informally from older girls and women".
details the dances that are attached to the instructions. There is also
extensive use of humanoid sculptures by the Venda in female initiation rites
Puberty rites (including immersion in icy water) are performed soon after the
first signs of physiological puberty. "At the conclusion of the rites, sexual
activity is permitted on the strict condition that the girl is not deflowered
[…]" (Saucier, 1972:p240).
This is called hlobongo, according to
Harries (1929:p7), and would be taboo for the one who has been bespoken for him
or her. Blacking (1959, 1978)
observed that a traditional "mother-child" custom attached to the vhusha is mimicked by pubescent and
prepubescent girls. The "play mother" and "play child" declare their love to
each other, and the mother may help the child in her first amorous approaches.It is unclear whether sexual behaviour is
Stayt (1931 [1968:p99-100])
refers to Venda children aged 12 to 15 years playing mahundwanu (miniature village), but nothing is said of sexual
contacts. In the vhusha (p108), sex education is given, and "[q]uite tiny girls
are often shown, by an old woman of their kraal, how to stretch the labia
minora". A stone is tied to the parts, and the juice of a cooked bat is rubbed
onto the vulva to arrive at the desired anatomical state. The traditional age
of Bavenda circumcision is not given by Wheelwright (1905).
In the circumcision lodge, the songs initiands are taught are "obscene and lewd,
bearing entirely on sexual matters" (p254).
[Additional refs: Jeannerat (1997)].
Krige and Krige (1947:p109)
mentioned "play intercourse". Among the Lobedu, play villages are erected
called mandwane. Not more than a few
years ago, sexual intercourse would take place as pubertal boys and girls (of
marriageable age) claimed a role in the play. Now, "[t]he game is confined to
children under the age of puberty". "[…] [M]asturbation among children is
looked upon as "playing with" the sexual organs, among boys and girls it is
indulged in less for its sexual satisfaction than to prove to their mates that
they have reached maturity (p290).
In Lesotho (Gay, 1979, 1985),
a system of "mummies" and "babies" prevails in which young girls in the modern
schools develop close relationships, with slightly older girls. Sexual intimacy
is an important aspect of these relationships. This was previously described by
Mueller and Hopkins (1979).
According to these authors, girls of about 9-12 would play the baby of
adolescent girls, and according to a limited number of informants, their
interaction included hugging, kissing, or genital play. Premarital sex with
boys is strictly tabooed (cf. Omari on ®Ghana).
[Additional refs.: Mturi, A.J. (2001) Parents'
Attitudes to Adolescent Sexual Behaviour in Lesotho. Paper presented to
IUSSP XXIV General Conference, August 2001. Brazil]
(1658; as cited by Karsch-Haack, 1901[1983:p251]; Karsch-Haack, 1911:p178)
on Madagascar: "[…] schon kleine Knaben und kleine
Mädchen trieben Liebespiele im Beisein ihrer Eltern, welche darüber lachten und
selbst dazu Anreiz gaben; bisweilen trieben kleine Buben, ohne Scham, in
Gegenwart ihrer Eltern, ausschweifende Spiele mit Kälbern und Zicken".
Audebert (quoted by Ploß and Bartels, II; Bloch, 1902, I:p254) also noted Paradoxia in Madagascar. According to
Sibree (1880:p39, 43),
premarital freedom on Madagascar was noted for, among others, the Hovas and Valave.
examined the sexual control in a Lutheran boarding school for girls established
by Norwegian women missionaries in Madagascar in 1872.
Sexual play between children is forbidden
and masturbation is not observed (Linton, 1939:p295).
There is no separation of the sexes (Linton, 1926:p295-6).
At age 15, or even before puberty, boys are given a separate house where they
receive girls ("pour recevoir leur partenaire sexuelle"). Ravololomanga (1992:p65) relates:
garçons et les filles dans leur enfance, vivant en promiscuité avec leurs
parents, partageant avec eux la même chambre, ont pu apercevoir leurs ébats
amoureux et n'ignorent pas l'acte sexuel. Vivant au milieu de la nature,
regardant les animaux domestiques ou suvages copuler, ils constatent leur
reproduction. Les enfants de même groupe d'âge et de même sexe se font de temps
en temps des confidences sur leurs expériences sexuelles. Dans cette société,
la virginité n'est pas exigée pour le mariage, sauf chez les rares familles où
la morale chrétienne a mis son empreinte. Les jeunes filles commencent leurs
expériences sexuelles vers quartorze ans et les garçons vers seize ans sand que
leurs parents leur en fassent de reproche".
The Lambas marry at age 14, and have no
word for virginity (Doke, 1931).
Children practise three types of hut building: one for childhood, boyhood and
girlhood (p143-6), although no observations were made on sex play. In the
children's hut, girls may use obscene language ("Now unfold your scrotums and
sleep in it"). In the boy's hut, boys practice phallopoesis by heating a root
and pressing it on the penis, "to enlarge and harden the organ" (p145). Girls
practice vaginal distension. Christian influence would have begun to have a
deterrent effect on both practices.
observed that Ambo "children and adolescents gain their sexual experience only
occasionally and furtively. There is extensive phallo- and andropoetic
pharmacology (p98), but the age of application is unclear (probably at
pubescence). Hahn (1928 [1966:p32])
states that girls are married "when quite young", but not until after the ohango ceremony. "Courtship often
commences long before a marriageable age is reached. Headmen of quite advanced
age frequently train young girls, generally maidens in their employ, in their
habits and ways with a view to ultimately marrying them".
states that boys are taught sexual matters by their fathers and girls by their
mothers, although much teaching is not necessary because "children, when we think
they are asleep, see many things". In addition, girls are formally taught during the pubertal ritual. "The important rule is
that no sex is allowed before the girls have reached puberty .
From then on it does not matter if she has sexual intercourse "with whoever she
loves". The loss of virginity has no special significance" (p98). Much openness
in sexual discussions is noted by Dornan (1925:p128).
Geographically Unspecified Tribes
"Before marriage the young men and girls
carry on the practice of lukh, that
is to say, the youths are allowed to inset the penis between the girl's legs
and sleep with them in this fashion; but they are not allowed to penetrate the
vagina. I believe that the same practice exists amongst other tribes in British
East Africa" (Hobley, 1911:p31).
Girls are promised to men "bereits mit 6
oder 7 Jahren", and handed over at maturity (age 12-14) (Weiß, p222).
Sexual life for girls is "officially" begun
after the circumcision (Weiß, p300). "So-called wise women" provide
instructions for the girls, "die in erste Linie auf das Geschlechtsleben Bezug
Songhai (2+,2+,3,3+,2,2 ;8,2)