IndexAfricaKenya → Kipsigis


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Peristany (1939:p47-8)[1] states that boys of about 15 (after initiation) and girls of 12 will be preoccupied with seeking a mate. Premarital courtship results in the adolescents sleeping together every night in the singroina, or men’s club. They may sleep in their sibling’s presence, but no intercourse is to take place (p50). A virgin at initiation (variably scheduled at ages 14-20, but in former years it could be as late as 30 for both sexes) is honoured; it was estimated that half were indeed pergeyat (virgin) at this time. Boys and girls practice an external form of intercourse (p51). At initiation the boy is required to admit or deny repeatedly his coital experiences, “[...] since an uncircumcised boy is said to soil all women with whom he has had sexual intercourse, and to make them barren” (the Arap Mogoss trial, p10-2).

In times of famine, an infant girl may be betrothed to a grown man (Kabwatereret, p64-5). The children learn by imitation (p94), and most commonly play at house building (p95-6), but no associations are made. “When they are old enough to take interest in love-making [?], they are all seen together at their meeting-places [...]” (p96). “Brothers and sisters, before having sweethearts, sleep naked and close to each other in their own hut, away from any supervision”. No clear pictures arises from this: “La faim, l’occasion, l’herbe tendre et, je pense, quelque diable aussi le poussant”.  Orchardson (1930/1:p101)[2] states that the girl marries immediately after her circumcision[3], and that the institution is consummated only when her mother has decided that she is ready to cook for her husband.


Female circumcision is pivotal (Tanaka, 2000)[4]:


“Female genital cutting is one of the most critical points in the life of the Kipsigis. It marked the transition from irresponsible childhood to an adult tribal member. Circumcision gives an individual an identity as a fully accepted member of the society. An uncircumcised woman would never be married. She cannot be allowed to deliver a baby because she herself is a child. A child is not a Kipsigis, but is regarded as the offspring of Kipsigis until one obtains legitimacy as a full Kipsigis through circumcision. A child is a non-entity referred to as ÒChepto.Ó The child of a non-entity is nothing in itself. Therefore, a child born of an uncircumcised woman was never allowed to breathe (Sindiga, 1995)”.











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] Persitany, J. G. (1939) The Social Institutions of the Kipsigis. London: G. Routledge & Sons

[2]Orchardson, I. Q. (1930/1) Notes on the marriage customs of the Kipsigis, J East Afr & Uganda Nat Hist Soc 40/1:99-112. Cited in Kyewalyanga (1977:p42)

[3] See also Borgerhoff Mulder, M. (1989) Menarche, menopause and reproduction in the Kipsigis of Kenya, J Biosoc Sci 21,2:179-92

[4]Tanaka, K. (March 2000) Medical Anthropological Study In Western Kenya And Its Implications For Community Health Development. International Development Center of Japan Working Paper Series No.55, p35-9 []