Paying a man for sex with girls who’ve just had their first period. Without a condom. It’s a tradition in Malawi and in November 2016 a man was sentenced for this for the first time. He’ll be in prison for two years, but there are more men who offer this kind of ‘services’.
Kusasa fumbi is a rite of passage: a menstruation rite to ‘sexually cleanse’ girls and learn them how to appeal to men. With all the risks that entails. What other rites are there for the first menstruation, or menarche? And are they all this cruel? Spoiler alert: in many cultures the first menstruation is a reason for celebration.
Festivities in Papua New Guinea
Several tribes in Papua New Guinea celebrate the menarche. At the first sight of blood, the girl is transferred to a special hut, where she stays while her mother and the rest of the women prepare the party. The men help, but when their job is done they leave the women. The women celebrate, but the girl stays in the hut. Only the next day she’ll be taken to the party where she receives a lot of gifts. She is treated like a princess: the women wash her, give jewelry and decorate her skin. These decorations used to be made by cutting the skin, but that practice is almost extinct.
Days of celebrations with the Native Americans
At the Navajo, the biggest tribe of Native Americans in the United States, the menarche ritual is called Kinaalda. As soon as a girl has her first bleeding, a celebration of multiple days starts and everybody helps preparing, just like in Papua New Guinea. The Kinaalda ceremony can take up to seven days, and all this time the girl is protected and cared for. The tribesmen and -women sing for her and make her dinner. Because: the happier the girl during the Kinaalda, the happier she will be the rest of her life.
The Apache tribe has a similar ritual every year in July, when multiple girls are celebrated together. The Apache-girls have a bigger challenge ahead: the last night of the four days’ ceremony they have to stay awake and dance. National Geographic made a short video about it, watch it here.
First Moon Party
Rites of passage have always been there. The Ancient Greeks built a temple for the menarche, the Hebrews celebrated it with a sacred anointment. All holy and sacred rites, to which the entire community contributes. They are meant to prepare the girls for puberty and to make sure they understand what it means to be fertile.
In the modern Western world we sometimes celebrate First Moon parties or girls get some nice jewelry to celebrate their passage to womanhood. The American tampon service Hello Flow made this hilarious video about a very awkward First Moon party.