Growing Up Sexually


MATABELE (Zimbabwe)



Index Africa Zimbabwe Matabele


Featured: Karanga, Matabele, Shona; ®Lemba, ®Atonga


Girls are “not so free in their childhood than boys” (Carnegie et al., 1894:p88)[1], but no statements are made on sexual life.

According to Jones (1921)[2], the ugutomba (girl’s initiation) includes songs “of the lewdest description”; the author subjoins one example but does not translate it[3]. Female informants assured that “there where no immoral practices in connection with the ceremony of ogutomba in the days of Mzilikazi”, or rather, it would be punished by the chief. Later, rules would be relaxed “and a good deal of immorality was connived at, if not actually permitted”. The intombi (initiated) girl is placed in the charge of “a woman, who is responsible for her moral behavior during a period of generally about two years, the intention being to preserve the purity of the girl until she is married”.

At least in a rural district of Matabeleland, traditional sex education no longer takes place (Vos, 1994)[4].










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] Carnegie, D., Elliott, W. A. & Cousins, G. (1894) Among the Matabele. London: Religious Tract Society. 2nd ed.

[2] Jones, N. (1921) Initiation Rites Among the Matabele, Man 21:147-50

[3] “No useful purpose will be served by translating them, but they ought to be placed on record, and they will be readily understood by those who are familiar with the language” (p148).

[4] Vos, T. (1994) Attitudes to sex and sexual behaviour in rural Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, AIDS Care 6,2:193-203