Father Arnoux (1931:p348)[1] noted that due to the unclothed state of being, children “[…] se permettent toute sorte de jeux indécents avec camarades des deux sexes, sans ressentir le moindre remords”. Maquet (1961:p78)[2]: “The Ruanda thought that when the sex activity of an individual had begun, he could legitimately expect an opportunity to enjoy intercourse as frequently as was socially thought normal. Some parents were said to be severe towards sexual play among children. When the latter indulged in imitation of adult relations, in masturbation, and other manipulations, they were beaten and flogged. Others were more permissive [Vincent]. Homosexuality was common among young Tutsi being trained at court, and was almost exclusively ascribed to the lack of heterosexual contacts”.

De Smedt (1998)[3] speaks of “child” marriage in Ruanda refugee camps but implies early adolescent marriage (girls: 13, boys: 14). Enry (1981, I:p35-7)[4]  relates that boys in their “second childhood” [of three] are made to live with aunts or or grandparents in order to prevent the sighting of parental intimacies. Nevertheless, “les conversations et les jeux avec les aînés les instruisent sans retard”. Many forms of sexual games exist, including the Bantu “jeu des huttes”, and even a secret language exists to escape the surveillance of authorities. After menarche, which may be as late as 17 or 18 (p37, n1), a stricter regimen is practised. Rather than by parents, the age group assures sex communications. Some autobiographies shed some light on these arguments (II, p409-18).

Mayr and Mayr-Knochel (1996:p29-30)[5] state that grandmothers may tease the little boy with his masculinity. Sexual acts are free, when not compromising parents or overt masturbation. Children build huts, and play husband and wife.


In a recent study[6] of Kigali street children (N=238, ages 6-20, median age 13 years, mostly males), “a full 35 percent of those under 10 were found to be sexually active”.





Further reading:


§         Babalola, S., Awasum, D. & Quenum-Renaud, B. (2001) The correlates of safe sex practices among Rwandan youth: a positive deviance approach, African J AIDS Res 1,1:11-21

§         Breaking Silence: Gendered and Sexual Identities and HIV/AIDS and Education, UNICEF 2003 []



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

Last revised: Apr 2005


[1] Arnoux, A. (1931) Quelques notes sur les enfants au Ruanda et à l’Urundi, Anthropos 26,3/4:341-51

[2] Maquet, J. J. (1961) The Premise of Inequality in Ruanda. London [etc.]: OxfordUniversity Press

[3] Smedt, J. de (1998) Child marriages in Rwandan refugee camps, Africa 68,2:211-37

[4] Enry, P. J. P. (1981) De l’Education Traditionelle a l’Enseignement Moderne au Rwanda. Vol. 1. Based on the author’s 1978 Thesis, Université de Lille

[5] Mayr, Th. M. & Mayr-Knochel, H. (1996) Frühe Kindheit in Ruanda, in Gottschalk-Batschkus, Ch. E. & Schuler, J. (Eds.) Ethnomedizinische Perspektiven zur Frühen Kindheit. Berlin: VWB, Verlag für Wissenschaft & Bildung, p21-30. The authors draw from Vincent, M. (1954) L’Enfant au Ruanda-Uruundi. Brussels: IRCB, esp. p167-71; and Gakumba, B. (1983) L’Éducation Sexuelle de l’Adolescent Rwandais Scolarisé. NationalUniversity of Rwanda

[6]Rwanda: Sexual activity among street children in Kigali, IRINNews Org, 13 Mar 2002,