Paramount Chief Kalonga Gawa Undi of the Chewa has banned sexual initiations like spouse exchange, commonly known as cidyerano, among other retrogressive cultural practices. Cidyerano is a sexual practice where men exchange their wives for sexual variety, while ‘Fisi (hyena) concept’ is a sexual exercise in which parents employ a mystery man (hyena) to test sexual skills of a girl who has reached puberty. The traditional leader said all bad initiations in the Chewa chiefdom will no longer be allowed.
Paramount Chief Gawa Undi identified seven cultural practices which have been banned to align Chewa customs with modern times. He said this in a message to all Chewa people in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. Chief Gawa Undi was in Malawi for 10 days to visit his subjects.
The traditional leader’s message is contained in a statement issued yesterday by Chewa Heritage Foundation – Zambia Chapter culture and traditional affairs secretary, Dismus Banda. “I have outlawed cidyerano, a practice where men forcibly exchange their spouses for sexual variety against their wives’ wish. Any Chewa who will be found practising cidyerano will be punished,” he said.
Chief Gawa Undi said it is now illegal in Chewa culture to arrange mystery men for girls to test their sexual skills when they reach puberty.
Other wicked cultural practices banned include sexual cleansing, early marriage, ‘chokolo’ (spouse inheritance) where widows and widowers are forced to marry family members after losing their legal partners, and Gule Wamkulu, where only willing boys above the age of 16 will be initiated.
Chief Gawa Undi said school-going children should only be initiated during school holidays.
He also directed that every Chewa child should be sent to school with full sponsorship of their parents or guardians. “Parents who deliberately fail or ignore this order should be reported to the traditional leadership so that they are punished,” he said. Chief Gawa Undi further ordered chiefs and headmen under him to enforce the ban on all wicked traditional practices.
Meanwhile, Plan International Zambia Eastern Province programme implementation manager Richard Kalyata has welcomed the ban on bad sexual practices in the Chewa chiefdom. “This is a good move by our paramount chief. The banning of bad initiations will motivate other traditional leaders to eliminate such vices,” Mr Kalyata said. He said Plan International will work with Paramount Chief Gawa Undi and other traditional leaders in fighting cultural practices that hinder the progression of boys and girls academically.
And Chisomo programmes manager Annie Chiseni said the ban is commendable. Mrs Chiseni said the battle against immoral traditional practices is now almost won and thanked Chief Gawa Undi for providing leadership. “These are the issues we always deal with in our outreach programmes. We are happy that the battle against sexual vices is almost won,” she said.
Mrs Chiseni urged subordinate chiefs to enforce the ban to make chiefdoms safe for children, men and women. And the Human Rights Commission (HRC) says the ban on bad sexual cultural practices is welcome because such initiations violate people’s rights. HRC principal information officer Simon Mulumbi said some initiation ceremonies infringe people’s rights.
“It is important to get rid of such bad cultures. There is need for us to bring back the culture which every person will enjoy. we need the culture that promotes human rights. “The action by Kalonga Gawa Undi is welcome but more sensitisation needs to be done so that people can understand the results of such practices,” Mr Mulumbi said.
But Independent Churches of Zambia board chairperson David Masupa has a different view.
Bishop Masupa believes the decision to ban girls from having sex with mystery men after reaching puberty is an infringement on their rights.