This centuries-old practice is common in the south-eastern part of the country near Gonarezhou Game Park, where community elders argue they have kept their society and marriages intact and fostered unity and peace.
“Adolescents are at risk of making blunders when it comes to sexual decisions. There are many cases of unwanted teenage pregnancies, so we take our adolescents to initiation ceremonies where they spend over a month in the forest. During that time the youths are taught accepted sexual practices and the roles of womanhood and manhood,” said Richard Ngwenyeni, a villager elder.
Teenage girls are taught life skills, to practice safe sex and protect themselves against rape and unwanted pregnancies. “When teenagers unexpectedly fall pregnant, they are tempted to abort. We teach girls that abortion has negative effects like death and the possibility of infertility in the future,” he added.
Although Ngwenyeni’s views on initiation ceremonies sound logical, Sandra views it differently and is apprehensive. She has been warned that sexual abuse takes place in the forests during initiation and is planning to run away from Chikombedzi to live with her grandmother because she does not want to undergo the rites of passage.
“The elderly women go to extremes when teaching young girls the skills to satisfy men sexually. In the practice commonly referred to as Chinamwali, women insert stuff like raw bananas into girls’ private parts and force them to perform movements imitating a sexual encounter with a man. That invades privacy and is a form of sexual abuse,” said another girl, who preferred to be identified as Charlene.
Praise Moyo of the Young People’s Network on Sexual Reproductive Health agreed that the practice violated the young girls’ rights and compromised their reproductive health and social interests.
“Teaching young girls about pleasing men sexually might expose them to sexual activity at a tender age. This might explain the reason why there are early marriages in areas that practice the initiation ceremonies,” Moyo added.
Hamudivamwe Dera of the Zimbabwe Integrated Youth Survival Alternative Programme said it made sense to shun cultural practices that violated one’s right of freedom of choice and association.
Jairos Maluleke (21), a villager, said he was against initiation ceremonies because young boys are forcibly circumcised.
“Although research has proved that circumcision is one good way of preventing HIV, it is not good when one is forced to do it. Most boys in Chikombedzi are now shunning initiation ceremonies because of that,” Maluleke said.Post published in: News