CAMEROON (General Remarks)


IndexAfrica→ Cameroon


Featured: Nso’, Beti / Eton, Maka, Etap, Pangwe / Fan, Baifa / Banen, Fali, Mouktélé, Bangwa, Bali, Mvae, Baka

Almeida (1987)[1] 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 (Gwan, 1987)[2], 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. A 1999 study[3] shows that “[…] males become sexually active at an earlier age than females, but that age at first intercourse is declining among females. Peer influence encourages early sexual initiation, but being enrolled in school delays it”. According to a 1995 survey (Rwenge, 2000)[4], 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”[5].

“[…] 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” (Irvine, 2000:p3)[6].

“In 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)[7]. 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[8]. It is in the house of this “stranger-husband” that she will experience her entire sexual and domestic life”[9].

Richard (1977:180-1 as quoted by Ohnson-Hanks, 2003:p19)[10]:

“Sexual games are prohibited by the Mada and Mouyeng societies… The rigor of the sanctions applied in the case of infraction underlines the esteem that the two societies have for virginity. The young girl, reclined, arms and legs in the shape of a cross, and firmly attached to stakes, undergoes the burning of hot pepper placed on the eyes and the pelvic region”.





Torday and Joyce (1922:p269)[11] 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)[12] 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 d’inversion sexuelle”.



FURTHER: Nso’, Beti / Eton, Maka, Etap, Pangwe / Fan, Baifa / Banen, Fali, Mouktélé, Bangwa, Bali, Mvae, Baka




Further References:


§         Bangha, Martin W. (2003) How Early is the Timing of Family Formation in Rural Cameroon? African Population Studies 18,1:1-18 []

§         Rwenge, M. (2003) Poverty and Sexual Risk Behaviour among Young People in Bamenda, Cameroon, African Population Studies 18,2:91-104 [ /]

  • Abega and Tamba (1995)[13];
  • 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
  • Gueboguo Senguele, Charles (2002) Manifestations Et Facteurs Explicatifs De L'homosexualite A Yaounde Et A Douala. Mémoire présenté en vue de l'obtention du diplôme de Maîtrise en Sociologie, The University of Yaounde I []
  • Lydié, N. ; N. J. Robinson, B. Ferry, E. Akam, M. De Loenzien, L. Zekeng, S. Abega (2003) Adolescent Sexuality and the Hiv Epidemic in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Journal of Biosocial Science, 1-20
  • Jean-Robert, R. M. (2004) Genre et sexualité des jeunes à Bafoussam et Mbalmayo, Cameroun [Gender and sexuality of youths in Bafoussam and Mbalmayo, Cameroon], Afr J Reprod Health 8,2:145-63




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

Last revised: Mar 2005


[1] Almeida, J. (1987) Methods for Starting Discussions with School-Age (11-16) Cameroon Teenagers on Sex and STDs. MSc, Institute for Child Health, London

[2] Gwan, E. (1987) Which Children Bear Children in Cameroon and Why? MSc, Institute for Child Health, London

[3] Meekers, D. & Calvès, A-E. (1999) Gender Differentials in Adolescent Sexual Activity and Reproductive Health Risks in Cameroon, African J Reproductive Health 3, 2:51-67    

[4] Rwenge, M. (2000) Sexual Risk Behaviors among Young People in Bamenda, Cameroon, Int Fam Plann Perspect 26,3:118-23+130

[5] Exchange 3 (1996), p9

[6] Irvin, A. (2000) Taking Steps of Courage: Teaching Adolescents about Sexuality and Gender in Nigeria and Cameroon. International Women’s Health Coalition

[7] ACAFEM (1992) Manuel Pour la Dissémination des Résultats Derecherche Sur les Pratiques Traditionnelles Bénéfiques et Néfastes Quiaffectent la Santé Reproductive de la Femme au Cameroun, at p14


[9] CRLP (2000) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Francophone Africa. Progress Report, p66-88

[10] Richard, M. (1977) Traditions et coutumes matrimoniales chez les Mada et les Mouyeng. Collectanea Instituti Anthropos, 10, St. Augustin; Ohnson-Hanks, J. J. (2003) Education, Ethnicity, and Reproductive Practice in Cameroon. Population-E 2003, 58(2) []

[11] Torday, E. & Joyce, T. A. (1922) Notes Ethnographiques sur des Populations Habitant les Bassins du Kasai et du Kwango Oriental. Bruxelles: Ministère des Colonies

[12] Torday, E. & Joyce, T. A. (1910) Notes Etnographiques sur les Peuples Communement Appeles Bakuba, ainsi que sur les Peuplades Apparentées, Les Bushongo. Bruxelles: Ministere des Colonies

[13] Abega, S. C. & Tamba, L. M. (1995) Contes d’Initiation Sexuelle. Yaounde: Éditions CLE