Growing Up Sexually





Index Africa Kenya Kamba


Featured : Pokomo, Amwimbe, Kore, Kuria, Masai, N’Jemp, Ariaal Rendille, Kamba, Tiriki, Chuka, Maragoli, Kikuyu, Kipsigis, Gusii, Luo, Meru, Samburu, Tuken, Nandi; ®Iteso


Lindblom (1920:p419)[1]: “The boys and girls play “father, mother and children” together. They build small huts of grass and imitate grown-ups, an imitation which is sometimes so carefully done that not even the sexual part of marriage is omitted. As is well known, such things cease to be a mystery to children of primitive people at a very early age”. Ndeti (1973:p109)[2] adds that the “period before puberty is characterized by very little sex education and sexual differentiation. Perhaps there is no need for this because sex roles are defined fairly early in life”. Girls are instructed at menarche by the mother or, in most cases, the grandmother. At this time, they may be ritually deflowered by a stick, while boys receive additional genital surgery beyond the circumcision they had at a younger age (Nida, 1962)[3]. Muthiani (1973:p55)[4] notes that “[s]ex education was the responsibility of the parents and, [in the case of girls,] the mothers. Girls had to be brought up to know not only what kind of people they should refrain from on the basis of sexual relations, but also when and where not to have sexual contact. With their little biological knowledge, they managed to train their girls to the best of their limited ability; thereby training them for avoidance (breaking of sexual mores). As a result, cases of incest and premarital births or even pregnancies were very, very rare”. The same could be true for boys. A girl was not desirable in marriage until she has conceived (Eloit, 1:p125)[5]. During the second of puberty rites (age 15 or so), boys perform symbolic sexual acts on girls with special sticks (Mbiti, [1990:p121]). Marriage does not take place after circumcision or menarche (Kyewalyanga, 1977:p42). Clitoridectomy is practiced at ages unassociated with puberty, sometimes at age 4 or 5 (Middleton and Kershaw, 1965:p80)[6]. A man is not punished if he fornicates with a girl past puberty, even if part of the bride price has been paid, provided no pregnancy results; if she is prepubertal, he pays a goat. If he commits “unnatural” behaviour with a boy, a rare thing among the Kamba, he pays a goat and a bull (Penwill, 1951:p73, 74, 76)[7].












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] Lindblom, G. (1920) The Akamba in British East Africa. Second edition, Uppsala: Appelbergs

[2] Ndeti, K. (1973) The Kamba of Central Kenya, in Molnos, A. (Ed.) Cultural Source Materials for Population Planning in East Africa. University of Nairobi, Institute of African Studies. Vol. 3, p106-113

[3] Nida, E. A. (1962) Akamba initiation rites and culture themes, Pract Anthropol 9,4:145-55

[4] Muthiani, J. (1973) Akamba From Within. Jericho, New York: Exposition Press

[5] Eliot, C. N. E. ([1905]) The East Africa Protectorate. London: Frank Cass

[6] Middleton, J. & Keshaw, G. (1965) The Kikuyu and Kamba of Kenya. Rev. ed. London: International African


[7] Penwill, D. J. (1951) Kamba Customary Law. London: MacMillan