IndexAfricaTanzania → Bena


Featured: Swahili, Wanguru, Turu, Kwere, Shambala, Ngindo, Chagga, Bena, Nyamwezi, Luguru, Kaguru, Sukuma, Subiya, Ngulu, Hehe, Barabaig, Nyakyusa, Gogo, Baraguyu;®Kuria, ®Masai

Bena children of both sexes freely mix and play games together, based on imitating adult life (Culwick and Culwick, 1935:p339)[1]. From 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[2] 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.











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] Culwick, A. T. & Culwick, G. M. (1935) Ubena of the Rivers. London: G. Allen & Unwin

[2] Note the authors’ description of this period: “They [girls] very soon become aware of an awakening interest in sex and the art of coquetry, and at puberty burst into full womanhood with astonishing suddenness, changing almost beyond recognition in the space of a few months, without the gawky awkward stage we associate with adolescence”.