Africa is indeed a strange continent with some of the weirdest traditions: from cleansing corpses and using the water to prepare communal meals to beating one another senselessly just to impress a woman, the continent is undeniably rich in culture.
Whether these customs are beneficial in any way to those who practice them is a topic for another day, but one custom worth exploring involves strange sex rituals still being practiced in Africa.
Locally known as Umhlanga, virginity testing is a popular tradition in South Africa, especially among the Zulu ethnic group who reside mainly in kwaZulu Natal province. Despite numerous attempts by the South African government to outlaw it, Umhlanga remains a popular annual Zulu reed dance ceremony.
For any girl to participate in this ceremony, her virginity must be tested by a qualified virginity tester.
The actual testing is done in a secluded room using bare hands. The girl being tested lies down on her back with her legs open. The tester then opens her vagina with both hands and looks inside, apparently to see if her hymen is intact. If all is well, the girl is given a virginity certificate.
Locals argue that this ritual helps to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS because young girls are forced to abstain from sex until they become of age. Still, the practice has been widely criticized, with some people saying it’s demeaning.
Sexual cleansing, which is locally referred to as “Kusasa Fumbi,” is a popular African tradition practiced in several African countries, such as Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, and more.
During the ritual, a woman is expected to have sex with a professional male sex worker locally known as “hyena.”
This ritual occurs when a girl gets her first menstrual period, when a married woman loses her husband, or after an abortion.
At times, the ritual is carried out by a selected future husband or the widow’s brother-in-law. Hyenas are not supposed to use any form of protection when performing the ritual – a requirement that has played a big role in the spread of HIV, other STIs, and unwanted pregnancies.
Wife stealing is an annual ritual practiced by the Wodaabe tribe, a subgroup of the Fulani ethnic group found in the Sahel region. Women from this group of nomads are allowed to have as many husbands as they wish.
During the wife-stealing ceremony, which can go on for days, women are required to pick their preferred mates from a group of men who put on a spectacular mating dance with the hopes of being picked.
A woman can pick as many mates as she pleases and have sex with them before she settles on one.
This festival is considered to be the world’s most outstanding beauty pageant for men. Apart from being a hotly contested beauty parade, the wife-stealing festival is different from other pageants because it’s the women who get to pick their favorite mates.
The weirdest thing about this practice is that it doesn’t matter how long the woman has been married; once she has picked a man, the tribe accepts the new union and regards it as a genuine marriage.
by Fredrick Ngugi