Africa

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Both North and Sub-Saharan Africa provide sites where sexual relationships between men and boys were documented throughout history, and even though they were not always widely accepted or institutionalized, they were often tolerated.

North Africa

The Mamlukes that ruled medieval Egypt practiced pederasty with boys from the Central Asian steppes (Murray 1987, Greenberg 1988) while, judging from Medieval Arabic poetry (Roth 1991, 1994) the love of boys flourished in the Islamic societies of North Africa. Even though Islam is generally set against same-sex relations, the segregation of sexes allowed homosocial arrangements and since "sexual congress between adult males and young boys was not construed as 'homosexual' or 'aberrant'" (Pierce 1997, 175) boys, "being not yet men, could be penetrated without losing their potential manliness" (Rowson 1991), while sex with boys "made men 'sinners', but did not undermine their public position as men or threaten the important social values of female virginity or family honor" (Dunne 1998).

Sub-saharan Africa

In Ethiopia, Bieber in 1909 "encountered Uranism" among the Semitic Harari people, which was practiced as often between men as between men and boys, while in nearby Erithrea, Paolo Ambrogetti wrote of relations of men with diavoletti ("little devils"), young boys, which were tolerated as a source of income by their fathers (Murray 1998)

Simlarly, the Azande, do not regard sexual relationships between men and boys as improper and it is considered sensible for a man to sleep with boys when women are not available (Evans-Pritchard 1970), while the Mossi in present day Burkina Faso the "soronés (pages), chosen from among the most beautiful boys aged seven to fifteen, were dressed and had the other attributes (including le rôle) of women in relation to chiefs, for whom sexual intercourse with women was denied on Fridays" (Murray 1998).

The case of the Bantu-speaking farmers who live in the rainforest north of the Congo River (in present-day Gabon and Cameroon), illustrates how homosexual relations with boys may not be institutionalized but tolerated (Murray 1998). Similarly, in Bantus peaking people northwest of Lake Nyasa (on both sides of the Tanzania/Zimbabwe border) even though homosexuality is a serious offence an informant informed anthropologist Monica Wilson in the 1930s that boys may sleep with older boys and have interfemoral intercourse (and sometimes oral or anal sex) with them (Murray 1998).

Godfrey Wilson also reported in 1957 that "in Lamu, a Swahili town north of Mombasa, boys dressed as women, performed a striptease and then paired off with older men from the audience" (Murray 1998).

Finally, another interesting case is that of South Africa where during the 1890s where a Zulu leader under the name name Jan Note ordered his (mostly non-Zulu) troops to abstain from all physical contact with females and instead his men took younger male initiates in the gang to keep them as "boy wives" (Murray 1998).

References

  • Dunne, B. W. (1998) "Power and Sexuality in the Middle East," Middle East Report 206: 8-12.
  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1970) "Sexual inversion among the Azande," American Anthropologist 72: 1428-1434.
  • Greenberg, D. F. (1988) The Construction of Homosexuality Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Murray, S. O. (1987) "The Mamlukes," in Cultural Diversity and Homosexualities, ed. S. O. Murray. New York: Irvington, pp. 213-219.
  • Murray, S. O. (1998) "Homosexuality in 'Traditional' Sub-Saharan Africa and Contemporary South Africa: an overview," in Boy-Wives and Female Husbands. Studies on African Homosexualities, ed. S. O. Murray and W. Roscoe. New York: St. Martin's Press, pp. 1-18.
  • Pierce, L. P. (1997) "Seniority, sexuality, and social order: the vocabulary of gender in early modern Ottoman society," in Women in the Ottoman Empire, ed. M. C. Zilfi. Leiden: Brill, pp. 169-196.
  • Roth, N. (1991) "'Fawn of my delights': boy-love in Hebrew and Arabic verse," in Sex in the Middle Ages: A Book of Essays, ed. J. Salisbury. New York: Garland, pp. 157-172.
  • Roth, N. (1994) "boy-love in Medieval Arabic Verse," Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia 3(3): 12-17.
  • Rowson, E. K. (1991) "The Categorization of Gender and Sexual Irregularity in Medieval Arabic Vice Lists," in Body Guards: The Cultural Politics of Ambiguity, ed. J. Epstein and K. Straub. New York: Routledge, pp. 50-79.