IndexAfricaSouth Africa → Pedi


Featured: Zulu, Basuto, Tswana, Swasi, Bovale, Pedi, Lemba, Xhosa, Xesibe, Tshidi Barolong, Venda, Fingo, Lobedu; ®!Xo

Pedi parents speak freely about and perform sex before their children until they reach the age of three years, when “the child cannot be influenced (xa a bone) (Pitje, 1951)[1]. Infant masturbation is verbally discouraged. “Childish” sex play is viewed tolerantly but, after age six, boys and girls are informally separated although the “occasional promiscuity” is taken for granted by adults unless pregnancy occurs. Like among the ®Trobrianders, children form “juvenile communities” where “nurses usually make the boys and girls in their care to have sexual intercourse while they hysterically laugh at the process. Some nurses allow the small boys to practice on themselves. The only sexual taboo that exists among them is that between brother and sister. […] Adults are not unaware of these juvenile experiments, but they generally look upon them as a harmless pastime, “so long as discipline is enforced upon them when the time comes” ”. The games are called Mokutelano (Hide-and-Seek), and Mantlantlwane (cf. K&K, 1947:p109, Mandwane), which includes wife-exchange in anticipation of the adult custom. When puberty is attained, total abstinence from intercourse is the proscribed rule[2], and the girl is to withstand the male’s natural inclination to sex. To insure chastity, parents may make the boy eat a herb causing painful haematuria. Nevertheless, seduction is common with any resulting pregnancy bringing social stigma and censure upon the girl and her parents. “Childish” temporary pseudo-marriage unions, although little more than a game, are frequent, and recognised by adults as a social institution which provides practice in home management. Although usually dissolved when the “pseudo-husband” enters lodika, a form of tribal initiation school, the union may be revived with the consent of both sets of parents. Sexual intercourse in rigidly forbidden in the Pedi play village (Van der Vliet, 1974:p242, n11)[3].  Ford and Beach (1951:p182) state that intercourse before puberty ceremonies is strictly forbidden. Mönning (1967:p110-1)[4] states that the Pedi, as do the ®Zulu and ®Venda, practice external intercourse, a matter denied by Harries (1929:p7)[5]. Children are betrothed in infancy, and joined at girl’s age of 12, a matter of which she is frequently reminded. Marriage takes place after the one-year native school. If by then a boy is not old enough to take her as a wife, she is “looked after” by his maternal uncle until he is (hlapetsha). In the girls’ school, a matron instructs the girls on matrimonial morality (or rather, principles “hardly fit for publication”) (p77). On boys’ initiation, it is stated: “It is generally understood that all manner of lewd instruction, pertaining to sexual matters, is given at the bodikane [[6]], but this has been emphatically denied, and the assurance given that the opposite sex may never be mentioned by or to the initiates” (p71); anyhow, the rite would have been threatened through contact with Europeans (p65).










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] Pitje, G. M. (1951) Sex education among the Pedi, Int J Sexol 4:212-6

[2] See also De Rachewiltz (1963 [1964:p151]), op.cit.

[3] Vliet, V. van der (1974) Growing up in traditional society, in Hammond-Tooke, W. D. (Ed.) The Bantu-Speaking Peoples of Southern Africa. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, p211-45

[4] Mönning, H. O. (1967) The Pedi. Pretoria: Van Schaik

[5] Harries, C. L. (1927) The Laws and Customs of the Bapedi and Cognate Tribes of the Transvaal. Johannesburg: Horters

[6] Circumcision lodge, formerly held after attaining the age of puberty, “but nowadays they are initiated even before reaching this state” (p65).