Amatshitshi plead for respect

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Amatshitshi continue last of remaining African practices.

Upholders of one of a few remaining African traditional practices want their fellow male mates to respect their own cultural practices.

The plea was made by members of group Isigqi Sezintombi (rhythm of girls or maidens), traditionally called amatshitshi (young girls not yet in love) in IsiZulu who are committed to retaining their virginity until they get married. The practice for girls until 21 years of age with a few older, culminates in a once-a-year event called umkhosi wo mhlanga (reed dance) at eNyokeni Palace, KwaZulu-Natal where Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini occasionally spots a potential wife. They were recently caught in traditional apparel and dance mood at Altrec Sports Centre with their carers urging them not to be misled from their vows.

The maidens expressed sadness with particularly boys, youth and sometimes older men who whistle, propose and denigrate them while in their traditional gear. “They threaten to rape, beat and kill us out of jealousy of our belief and commitment to remain pure until marriage to our chosen husbands in future,” one girl said. She and others expressed fear of the threats and disrespect saying these were sometimes made in the presence of their parents, at a time of moral decay and unrelenting sexually related crimes.

She said the maidens make a conscious choice to join the group from advice by others at school or their parents who brought them to the group. The minors commended the practice for protecting them from unwanted teenage pregnancies and for teaching them discipline, patience, respect of and desire to make their parents proud of them.

The group members from different tribal groupings dispelled the perception that its a Zulu only practice. Also, they commended it for exposing them to different people, places and experiences.