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Nature volume 131, pages 516518 (08 April 1933) | Download Citation



Chastity in Bechuanaland. Changes in the attitude of the Southern Bantu to premarital chastity and pregnancy and their cause are discussed by Dr. I. Shapera in Africa, vol. 6, No. 1, in the light of investigations among the BaKxatla of the Sotho-Tswana cluster in Bechuanaland Protectorate. As among other tribes of the group, the essential element in marriage is the transfer of cattle from the family of the bridegroom to that of the bride, known under the name of boxadi. According to traditional practice, strict chastity used to be required of both sexes before they entered the initiation classes, and any boy who was known to have transgressed was liable to be killed while under instruction and in any event was regarded as having disgraced his family and tribe; while a girl who became pregnant had to submit to a variety of humiliations, as well as mockery from other girls, this last being the most serious deterrent of all. The child was either aborted or killed at birth. On completion of initiation, the girl was usually married at once, while the boys were drafted into regiments, and as they were permitted to marry only girls from an age-class junior to their own, marriage was postponed for some years, during which period they had access to the younger wives of other members of their family—usually of the father's younger brother. The changed attitude of the present day, characterised by looseness of morals and a much milder attitude towards the unmarried mother, is due to a variety of causes, among which are mentioned the abolition of the initiation classes at the instance of the Church, freer intercourse between the sexes before and after adolescence, the greater license of the youths awaiting admission to the regiments, the freedom in sexual matters acquired by the men while away in European employment and the preponderance in the number of women owing to the fact that many males do not return to the tribe when they once leave.

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