FIJI (Melanesia)



MBAU/ LAU FIJIANS (2+,3-,3,3+,3-,3-;-,9) (EHRAF) (MELANESIA)



Child betrothal has already been discussed. On the LauIslands, Fiji, “[u]p to the age of eleven or twelve no special attention is paid to the sex life of children except that the speaking tabu is enforced between brothers and sisters and parallel cousins of opposite sex. Apparently many girls as well as boys masturbate, and young mothers who are nursing babies- and hence forbidden sexual intercourse- occasionally do so also. According to the girls themselves, homosexual relationships among girls are not rare. These relationships usually begin by imitation of other girls before a girl’s first menstruation” (Thompson, 1940a:p47-8)[1]. If a girl had sexual intercourse either before or during the tattooing period of about a year (begun shortly after a girl’s first menstruation by a female who “felt the patient’s thighs to determine whether or not the girl was ready for the operation”), the operation would be more painful and the wounds would require more time to heal than otherwise (Thompson, 1940b)[2]. Since boys could not play in mixed groups, “[t]he only emotional outlets for boys of this age is in masturbation and homosexual relations with other pilos (prepuberty boys)”[3].

Schidlof (1908:p9-10)[4] speaks of “recht vorzeitige Geschlechtsbetätigung, die aus Kinder Mütter und aus jungen Frauen Hexen macht” [genuinely premature sexual indulgence, that makes mothers of children and witches out of young women].

A girl enters womanhood through the four-day cohabitation ritual, resulting from an elopement (Turner, 1986:[p35])[5]. The “weak”, “formless” and “socially immature” girl is thus “given a socially approved shape when a senior man instructs her in how to behave as a wife, as a woman. It is then that the girl, incapable of self-governing behavior, is turned into a responsible woman” ([p40-2]). Not even ending with marriage, the entire matagali is concerned about the girl’s sexual conduct; especially the brother is to watch her moves.



Additional refs:


·        Abramson, A. (1987) Beyond the Samoan controversy in anthropology: a history of sexuality in the eastern interior of Fiji, in Caplan, P. (Ed.) The Cultural Construction of Sexuality. New York: Tavistock Publications

·        Lester, R. H. (1939/40) Betrothal and marriage customs of Lau, Fiji, Oceania 10:273-85







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

Last revised: Dec 2004


[1] Thompson, L. (1940a) Fijian Frontier. San Francisco, Calif.: American Council, Institute of Pacific Relations

[2] Thompson, L. (1940) Southern Lau, Fiji: An Ethnography. Honolulu, Hawai’i: BerniceP. BishopMuseum

[3] See also Bullough, V. L. (1976) Sexual Variance in Society and History. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, p28-9

[4] Op.cit.

[5] Turner, D. M. (1986) Women’s Ritual Roles in Matailobau, FijiIslands: The Construction of Gender and Social Life. PhD Thesis, MichiganStateUniversity