Recently I traveled through the lush green hills of Eastern Uganda to spend a weekend with the Sabiny people.
The Sabiny are one of the smallest tribes in Uganda which is settled in the districts of Bukwo, Kapchorwa and Kween.
They speak a Nilotic language called Kupsabiny of the Nandi cluster now known as the Kalenjin in neighboring Kenya.
The Sabiny people are famous for producing some of the world’s best Athletes like Joshua Cheptegei, Stephen Kiprotich and Moses Kipsiro among others.
During our tour, our guide Job Soyekwo took us through the nooks and crannies of this amazing community of people.
This, according to Soyekwo, is an important ritual in the Sabiny community as it is a step from childhood to adulthood.
One of the boys ready for circumcision“Circumcision for boys is done between the age of 14 to 24 years. What the boys need is basically to tell their parents who then prepare what is needed for the practice to be carried out” he said.
The circumcision itself is communal and has to be witnessed and celebrated by the village.
“The actual circumcision happens in the morning for the Sebei people. The boys are organized in groups considering their parents ages meaning the boy with the oldest parent goes first. When a family wants to circumcise two boys, a boy from another family is put in between the two brothers to avoid bad luck”.
Before all that the boys are taken through a process of learning how to dance and sing in preparation of the ceremony.
More so, the circumcision can only take place in even years.
While some well off Sabiny often opt for medical circumcision, Soyekwo says this does not carry cultural importance and recognition.
On the days we visited, I notice that some young men were dressed in skirts and others wrappers, having under gone circumcision recently.
Another slightly older man dressed in the same way, we were told, was forcibly circumcised after he tied to run away from the ritual.
Yes, at time the locals take matters into their own hands.
And then came the shocker…
“After the healing process and the boy has fully turned into a man, they are told to get a woman whom they will have intercourse with but never marry because that’s where they will leave all their curses,” Soyenkwo revealed.
While Government banned Female Genital Mutilation and later introduced the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010, the Sabiny people have continued this practice albeit discreetly.
Some of the Sabiny men celebrating after Circumcision“We are still hearing rumors that people deep in the villages are practicing it. They do it secretly in hiding from the public because it’s an illegal act according to the Ugandan government” Soyenkwo said.
The Sabiny carry out this brutal practice to kill their women’s libido.
“Long ago, one of our great grandmothers broke the rules and had intercourse with someone from another tribe and got pregnant. This was disrespectful to the elders and the whole community at a large. Everybody talked ill about the child who was taken as an outcast. The elders of the clan had to have a meeting on how to stop it from happening again. That’s how they introduced the female circumcision to kill the women’s sexual senses.
“This made the men feel safe when they went out hunting knowing that their women would not cheat” he explained.