A word that is believed to quickly lose meaning with every day that goes by, envisioned in phrases like “Virginity is lack of Opportunity”, still holds a weighty meaning to the Bakiga people of Kigezi Land. “Africa’s Switzerland” as she is called, Kigezi can be visited on a Safari to Uganda’s south west.
Omukiga (the singular of the Bakiga people) speaks a language called
Rukiga, and like many of the other Bantu languages in Africa, some words
either do not change or are closely alike. The Bakiga however have an
absorbing set of cultures but I seek to only explore one today.
On a Safari tour in Uganda
you can confirm that among the Bakiga, marriage is sacred and only the
ready few are allowed to transition into this ceremony. Much as
virginity is a matter to be respected by all, it is more strictly
enforced on the girl’s side. A boy could lose his virginity and get away
with it, but a girl could not even think about making that mistake,
because of the repercussions that would ensue.
Unmarried girls were
tightly watched by female relatives in the family while at home, and
also by the elders in the community when they went to the forest to
collect firewood, or when they carried their water pots between home and
the well. But even though the punishments attached were heavy, some
girls still opted to trespass.
Committing this crime and getting
caught would result in a death sentence for the girl. The famous Kisiizi
falls in Rushoma was the legendary execution point. The girl, followed
by a parade of community members, was led to the top of the falls and
then thrown over the falls to her death. It is believed that up to
100,000 girls were guillotined in this manner. Today the falls still
exist and can be visited on a Safari in Uganda.
An alternative punishment involved taking the girl deep into the forest
where she was left at the mercy of the hungry forest dwelling beasts.
The chances of surviving were somewhat obscure, due to the existence of
both day time and nocturnal predators in the forest. The Bakiga also
narrate that some other transgressors would be taken to a small island
in Lake Bunyonyi where they were dumped and left to starve to death. It
has however been said that these girls had a greater chance of surviving
than their counterparts who faced the other forms of punishment. Some
migrating pastoralists would take them up as wives for free, and
therefore didn’t have to offer dowry.
Numerous tourists have discovered more about this land during their Uganda Gorilla Safaris.
Despite the heartbreaking story that this land tells, from it we can
all learn the importance of following instructions. Kigezi land is by
far one of those places which have something for everyone. Kigezi,
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