When the hymen was broken by strangers

Marriage along with its arrangement and associated preparations has changed. We have adopted the tradition that has obliterated our past. This past weekend my cousins and I had a long discussion on the matter. We reminisced about yesteryears when we were teenagers. At the time almost all the marriages were arranged by the parents. A few of the marriages were solemnized in church for those who had converted into Christianity. Amongst the Ba-ga-Malete of Ramotswa right until 1980, many young men and women went through traditional rite of passage. Bojale and Bogwera were used partly to determine the right age of marriage. Many of us, boys and girls alike, went through our teenage lives having not tasted the forbidden fruit. At the time it was a taboo to unplug the raw fruit. Hence the saying “tlogela lekgela le butswe.” Indeed many of us started very late in our lives. Majority of us were naïve on matters of sexuality. Sadly too, such issues were never subject of discussion, even amongst adults. When the majority of girls were married they did not have even the slightest idea about their own sexuality. As we sat and chatted over our calabash of traditional beer we recalled a story of a female age mate who was taken away from school to go for bojale. Upon return a few months later, she was brought in to a pre-arranged marriage with a man that all of us knew could be her father. Her consent was not sought because such marriages were between families and not individuals. As her young school-going age-mates, we became privy to her bedroom escapades. As was tradition, she was drilled into the nitty-gritties of marriage at bojale. More instructions were made clearer on the day of patlo by her aunt and the married women of the village. She was admonished from playing or sitting around unmarried girls. This particular girl was like all of us still immature and above all a lekgela. This was considered a good sign in a daughter who was well brought up. To us her age mates, this monnamogolo was like an intruder. At the time, the practice and expectation was that on the first night of marriage, the couple was to break the drinking pail(sego). The man usually had some knowledge of sex. These were the most difficult nights. The young wife would have never been held and introduced to lovemaking and yet was obliged to make love to a man she hardly knew. Many stories of such young girls trying to run away from these total strangers were common. Since we then lived in traditional huts with no permanent doors, it was expected of the aunt to sleep just outside. The idea was to guard the newly wed from running away. The aunt had a duty to persuade the niece to endure the pain. Such were nights the hymen was broken. Don’t dare ask me how I got the details. My age mates and class mates who were forcefully withdrawn from school remained my friends till today. In this dot.com era this sounds weird. But such was life.