Growing Up Sexually





Index Africa Uganda Bahuma Bajoro


Featured: Ik, Gisu, Acholi, Sebei, Bahima/Bahuma [Hima, Bahuma Bajoro], Bachiga, Lango, Nkole, Ganda, Kiziba, Lugbara, Jie, Iteso, Bwamba, Baamba, So, Guang



Frazer (1920)[1]: “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).


According to Roscoe (1923:p258-9)[2]:


“Until they married, both boys and girls lived in their parents' house. The girls slept in a small enclosed space at the head of the parents' bed, which could only be entered by passing the bed, while the boys slept on the other side of the house, sometimes on a bed but in their early years on the floor. Children received little moral training or discipline and were free to do much as they liked until they were old enough to be of some use. Respect for their parents was insisted upon and a child telling lies or using obscene language was rebuked, but no punishment was administered beyond a scolding or a slap on the arm if the child refused to drink its proper amount of milk. There was no reticence before children on matters of sexual relations and birth, but their open discussion apparently awakened no sense of curiosity and the early separation of the girls from the boys, combined with early marriages, prevented the growth of sexual desires. It was customary during childhood to wear no clothes at all, but children were provided with amulets which were hung in numbers round neck, waist, and ankles. At about the age of six a boy of the cow people would wear a calf-skin or a scrap of cow-hide over his shoulders, tied on the right shoulder, and later on he might wear two skins. When he had been initiated he wore a skin round his loins. A pastoral girl wore nothing until she was quite big, when she might wear a small apron or a skin as a loin-cloth and sometimes also a skin over her shoulders, but girls often went naked until they were married, even when full-grown. The serfs wore even less: at about the age of six boys wore a scrap of skin round their loins and a full-grown girl would wear one or two goat-skins tied together to form a loin-cloth”.


On menarche (p263):


“When she had her first menses her mother concealed the fact from everyone, sometimes even from her husband. [...] After the first menses the fact was not kept secret and the girl might be claimed by the man to whom she had been promised”.


Betrothal (p266):


“[a] well-to-do cow-man and his wife would take care to seek out a wife for their son while he was yet an infant. [...] The children were allowed to grow up without knowing anything of this arrangement. They might know each other and, if they happened to be neighbours, they might play together in childhood, but as a general rule they never met until they married. When the boy was old enough to understand what marriage meant, his parents told him what they had arranged and informed him who the girl was and where she lived. He then had to make the acquaintance of her parents, though he was not supposed to see the girl herself. He showed his interest and satisfaction by sending gifts, however trifling, from time to time to his future parents-in-law, while he waited for the girl to grow old enough to marry”.


Further (p272):


“The bride’s aunt “[...] slept on the same bed as the newly married couple and on the second or third night directed them how to consummate the marriage. Should the bride be afraid and resist the bridegroom’s advances or leave the bed, it was the duty of the aunt to instruct her by giving her the example of sexual intercourse with the bridegroom”.









Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Frazer, J. G. (1920) The Mackie Ethnological Expedition to Central Africa, Man 20:181-88

[2] Roscoe, J. (1923) The Bakitara or Bunyoro: the first part of the report of the Mackie Ethnological Expedition to Central Africa. Cambridge [Eng.]: The University Press