IndexAfricaKenya → Luo


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


“[…] among themselves an unmarried woman who has reached the age of puberty may have as many friends as they call them, as she likes, provided that they come from another clan; after marriage she must confine her attentions to her husband” [1].


Blount (1973:p325)[2]: “Young Luo boys begin to experiment with sex when they are four to six years of age, but their behaviour is severely criticized and restricted. As mobility is limited, boys are first interested in girls who reside in the immediate vicinity, and due to residential patterns, these girls are close relatives. Sexual relations with them are incestuous and although this concept is not immediately understood by a young boy, he quickly learns that they are not “available sex playmates”. If need be, a young boy will be sent to stay with a relative to remove him from temptation of nearby female cousins or sisters. Only after a boy becomes a youth, at the approximate age of 13 to 15 years, is there opportunity for considerable contact with members of the opposite sex”. Luo boys are said to practice a preputial conditioning at the age of 10 to 12 (Parkin, 1973:p335-6)[3]. Schoolgirls begin to take a great interest in romantic aspirations, and eagerly await thelarche (Ominde, 1952)[4]. The marital cycle “proceeding” to the act of childbearing, is imitated (p31). Genitals are compared, and “something approaching a crude sexual intercourse” takes place when older members of the family are absent. During the period when the crops are ripening these older children, sometimes accompanied by younger ones who act as sentries, disappear into the cornfields to carry out this practice”. The parental reaction is one of reproach and restriction. Before age eleven, restrictions of exogamy are suggested to the girls. The girls learn from the coquetry and customs of more mature girls with whom they sleep. Sexual instruction for girls took place within the swindhe, a form of communal living (Cohen and Odhiambo, 1989)[5].

Child betrothal (p92) or marriage (p117) may take place (Wilson, 1961)[6], but this seems a peripheral custom. Child marriage (nyar osiep) includes marriage ceremonies without consummation (cf., Kyewalyanga, 1977:p24)[7].



Further reading:


  • Dilger, Hansjörg (2003) Sexuality, AIDS and the Lures of Modernity: Reflexivity and Moral­ity among Young People in Rural Tanzania, Medical Anthropology 22,1:23–52




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

Last revised: Aug 2005



[1] Northcote, G. A. S. (1907) The Nilotic Kavirondo, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 37:58-66, at p65

[2] Blount, B. G. (1973) The Luo of South Nyanza, western Kenya, in Molnos, A. (Ed.) Cultural Source Materials for Population Planning in East Africa. University of Nairobi, Institute of African Studies. Vol. 3, p318-29

[3] Parkin, D. J. (1973) The Luo living in Kampala, Uganda, Nairobi, and central Nyanza, Kenya, in Molnos, A. (Ed.) Cultural Source Materials for Population Planning in East Africa. University of Nairobi, Institute of African Studies. Vol. 3, p330-9

[4] Ominde, S. H. (1952) The Luo Girl, From Infancy to Marriage. London: Macmillan

[5] Cohen, D. & Atieno Odhiambo, E. S. (1989) Siaya. The Historical Anthropology of an African Landscape. London: James Curry

[6] Wilson, G. (1961) Luo Customary Law and Marriage Laws Customs. Nairobi: Govt. Printer

[7] Kyewalyanga, F. (1977) Marriage Customs in East Africa. Hohenschäftlarn: Renner