ZAIRE (®Colonial Congo) (Mbo, Bwela, Ngwana, Mukete, Basoko, Kuba, Bahemba, Azande, Bakongo, Bakwa-Luntu, Tetela, Muyaka, Alur, Baluba, Baushi, Wagenia, Yombe) 



Also: Congo


“Ethnic group and religion are also significant influences on the timing of early life course transitions. As the magnitudes of the estimated coefficients in the different tables indicate, there are substantial differences by ethnic group in age at entry into sexual activity and motherhood, and somewhat smaller differences in age at entry into marriage. The differences by religion tend to be smaller than those by ethnic group for initiation of sexual activity and childbearing, but they are as large or larger for entry into marriage. These results indicate that cultural and religious differences among women in Kinshasa are important determinants of differences in the timing of these life course transitions”[1].


Among the Kongo kanda, marriages were arranged by parents. This arrangement was most usual when a man sought to secure a right to an infant. He would then co-habit with her when she reached the age of thirteen or fourteen” (Hilton, 1983:p192)[2].

Based on autobiographical material, Erny (1971; 1977:p331-65)[3] dwells at length about childhood and adolescent sexual development, giving a poly-ethnic survey including data on the Batetela, Bapende, Bakwa-Luntu, Bakongo, Mongo, Bapende, Babembe, Baluba, Lulua, Bayombe, Mbanza, Bambala, Bayanzi, Basuku, Bahungana, Bayansi, Luntu, Muyaka, Zande, and Alur. Preparation of the female genital (vaginal and hymenal distension, elongation of labia majora) are noted for the Bapende (in groups, with the use of herbs), Babembe, Batetela, and Baluba. Andropoetica (phallopoetica, aphrodisiacs) are used among Batetela and Mongo boys. Questions about sexuality are generally met with evasion among the Baluba, Bambala, Bayanzi, Basuku (particularly true for father-son conversations); some parental sex education is noted for the Mongo, as well as grandparental education among the Mongo, Baluba and Bahungana.


In a 1988 study (Rind, 1991)[4], mean age of first sexual intercourse was 17 for men and 16 for women. In a later study, mean age at first sexual intercourse was 17.1 for males, and 16.8 for females (Magnani et al., 1995)[5]. In a further study[6] among 1198 students from six rural and two urban schools in Zaire in 1990, the average age at first sexual intercourse was 11 years for boys, 13 years for girls.










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] Shapiro, D. & Tambashe, O. (1996) Family Background and Early Life Course Transitions in Kinshasa, J Marriage & Fam 58,4:1029-37

[2] Hilton, A. (1983) Family and Kinship among the Kongo South of the Zaire River from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries, J African Hist 24,2:189-206

[3] Erny, P. (1971) Vie et éducation sexuelles chez l’enfant et l’adolescent Zairois, Probl Soc Cong 94/5:89-118; Erny, P. (1977) Sur les Sentiers de l’Université. Autobiographies d’Étudiants Zaïrois. Paris: La Pensée Universelle

[4] Bertrand, J. T. et al. (1991) AIDS-related knowledge, sexual behavior, and condom use among men and women in Kinshasa, Zaire, Am J Public Health 81:35; Rind, P. (1991) Misconceptions About HIV Transmission Are Common in Kinshasa, Int Fam Plann Perspect 17,2:78-9

[5] Magnani, R. J., Bertrand, J. T., Makani, B. & McDonald, S. W. (1995) Men, Marriage and Fatherhood in Kinshasa, Zaire, Int Fam Plann Perspect 21,1:19-25+47

[6] Tshimika, P. K. (1991) Predictors of HIV-Related High Risk Sexual Behaviors among Adolescents from Church-Related High Schools in the Bandundu Province-Zaire. Diss., Loma Linda University