Growing Up Sexually



DATOGA, Tatog, Tatoga, Datoog, Mangati (Tanzania


Index AfricaTanzania Datoga


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


According to (Blystad, and Rekdal, 2004:p636)[1]


The mandatory removal of the clitoris and labia minora is commonly carried out when a girl is between 2 and 5 years of age. This painful operation is carried out by a local elderly women with only a handful of women present in the homestead. The incident is not talked much about and receives no cultural elaboration. This appears in stark contrast to male circumcision, which is a grand ritual occasion characterized by the brewing of large quantities of honey mead, sung prayer, and dancing. The operation takes place when boys are between 5 and 12 years old. Large numbers of boys, sometimes several hundred, are circumcized at the same occasion. The operation itself is commonly carried out with a knife or razor blade, and is followed by the feeding of milk and blood for the boys to regain their strength”.




Particularly intricate and poetic youth talk takes place between potential boy/girlfriends. A man who fails to encourage the continuation of the relationship through dialogue may attempt to win a girl’s heart through a spearing in the lilichttradition, a traditional hunt for dangerous animals (usually a lion) linked up with youthful fertility. Although sexual play is an integral part of youth activity, norms prohibit a couple from carrying out sexual penetration while the girl is unmarried. The norm is related to the absolute condemnation of children born without clan affiliation on the father’s side. Indications of breaches of the sexual norm, and rumors that a particular girl “has become a woman,” may lead to her being required to undergo a physical checkup by a group of older women, and they may conclude that “the girl has now become like us,” and should be married off immediately. Such incidences severely reduces a girl’s chances of influencing the choice of her marital partner. This is not to say that premarital sexual intercourse does not occur. Young Datoga said that preventive measures such as coitus interruptus were common and that remedies that cause abortion were known. But girls were generally said to be reluctant to agree to sexual intercourse. Medical personnel confirmed that virginity among unmarried Datoga girls is the rule rather than the exception”.


According to Blystad (2004:[draft, p6-7])[2]:


“While freedom, excitement, and sexual play are cherished and encouraged attributes of non-marital relations, sexual intercourse is strictly prohibited for unmarried Datoga girls. A number of institutions facilitate and endorse romantic encounters between youth on the one hand, and a control of these encounters on the other. Formal youth meetings (seyooda tangaz) are mandatorygatherings headed by female and male youth leaders taking place in hidden bush land. The meetings facilitate proper splicing of potential girlfriends and boyfriends through a formal calling out of clan- and generation set names among the participants. In principle the same regulations of relationships are to be followed among boyfriends and girlsfriends as among potential marital partners, but the rules are somewhat more relaxed in premarital relations. The meetings facilitate romantic private meetings (seyooda) between young men and women, and is a precondition for young couples’ engagement in 'youth talk' (gharemanend dumeed), highly poetic and ritualised conversations performed between young men and women. The ultimate aim of these lengthy oral competitions that may go on for hours and even days, is from the man’s point of view an intimate relation. In cases where a girl outwits a boy, the boyfriend-girlfriend relation is put on a temporary or possibly a full halt, ideally resulting in boys taking off to hunt/spear lions, elephants or other large mammals to win the admiration of the girl (lilichta/lugooda). During the early phase of the engagement in such youth activity, a girl will have her own formally appointed male guardian (ng'wasaneeda). From the point of view of the girl’s family, this man is to ensure their daughters’ assertive but proper conduct in her dealings with men in order to prevent pregnancy prior to marriage. Girls also arrange their own secret girls' meetings (makchameeta haweega), where approved as well as sanctioned sexual practice preoccupy the participants. The number one principle governing the youth pacts is respect (mureeda)”.



Additional references:


  • Blystad, A. (2000) Precarious procreation: Datoga Pastoralists at the late 20th century. PhD Thesis, Universitetet iBergen, Norway



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

Last revised: Mar 2005


[1]Astrid Blystad, & Ole Bjørn Rekdal (in press) Datoga, in Ember, C. R. & Ember, M. (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology: Health and illness in the world's cultures. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. Vol. 2, p629-38 []

[2] Blystad, A. (2004) On HIV, sex and respect: Local-global discourse encounters among the Datoga of Tanzania, African Sociological Review 8,1:47-66 []