Wife swapping among Namibia's nomadic tribes has been practised for generations but a legislator's call to enshrine it in law has stirred debate about women's rights and tradition in modern society.

The practice is more of a gentlemen's agreement where friends can have sex with each others' wives with no strings attached. Swinging with an African tribal touch? Or "rape", as some critics see it.

The wives have little say in the matter, according to those who denounce the custom as both abusive and risky in a country with one of the world's highest HIV/Aids rates.

But the Ovahimba and Ovazemba tribes, based mainly in this southern African country's arid north, contend their age-old custom strengthens friendships and prevents promiscuity.

"It's a culture that gives us unity and friendship," said Kazeongere Tjeundo, a lawmaker and deputy president of the opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia.

"It's up to you to choose [among] your mates who you like the most ... to allow him to sleep with your wife," said Tjeundo, a member of the Ovahimba ethnic group.

Concerned that HIV/Aids could be used as an excuse to stop the ancient tradition, he and others are suggesting regulations be adopted to ensure "good practice".
'Offering a wife to a guest'

Tjeundo said he plans to propose a wife-swapping law, following a November legislative poll when he is due for re-election.

Known as "okujepisa omukazendu" - which loosely means "offering a wife to a guest" - the practice is little known outside these reclusive communities, whose population is estimated at 86 000.

Mainly found in the north-western Kunene region near the Angolan border, the tribes are largely isolated from the rest of the country. They have resisted the trappings of modern life, keep livestock, live off the land and practice ancestral worship.

Many still reside in pole-and-mud huts and both men and women go bare-chested.

The women wear short skirts of goat skin, carved iron and cow shell jewellery and cover their braided locks in thick red ochre paste, which they also rub on their skin as a sun screen.

Unlike any modern-day swinging, tribal members make no random draw to pair couples. They meet in their own homes, while the husband or wife of the other party is banished to a separate hut during the exchange.

Women cannot object to sleeping with a man chosen by their husbands, a point that angers rights activists like Rosa Namises who says the custom is tantamount to rape and "rape is illegal".

"That practice is not benefiting women but men who want to control their partners," said Namises, a former lawmaker who heads a non-governmental organisation called Woman Solidarity Namibia.

'Why should we change it?'
Other groups like Namibia's Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), a public interest law firm that vows to protect the rights of all Namibians, have challenged its continued existence in a country where 18.2% of the 2.1 million residents have HIV, according to national statistics.

"It's a practice that puts women at health risk," said Amon Ngavetene, who is in charge of LAC's Aids project. He contends that most women are opposed to the practice and would want it abolished.

But 40-year-old Kambapira Mutumbo is completely comfortable with the custom and has been asked to sleep with her husband's friends.

"I did it this year," she said, and "I have no problem with the arrangement. It's good because it's part of our culture, why should we change it?" she added.

Cloudina Venaani, programme analyst with the United Nations Development Programme office in Namibia, is adamant that women only tolerate it because they are afraid of defying their husbands.

Traditionalists, however, insist the custom does not violate the rights of women, noting that women are also free to choose partners for their husbands - even if this rarely happens in practice.

Like opposition lawmaker Tjeundohe, Uziruapi Tjavara, chief of the Otjikaoko Traditional Authority in the Kunene region, wants the custom to continue but paired with education on HIV.




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selele
+2 # selele 2015-01-28 14:02
On this one I am sitting on the fence...for as long as I am the "chosen" friend and not the husband.
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Solo
+1 # Solo 2015-01-28 19:16
Quoting selele:
On this one I am sitting on the fence...for as long as I am the "chosen" friend and not the husband.


If you go there and fertilise as many women as possible, some receiving some twins I don't think the legitimate husband will be comfortable to stay with your offspring in his house. This is a shrewd practise that has no place in computer age. Males are jealous in general, a male dog or lion reacts when someone strays into his home. Human beings with wisdom should do better. After all, AIDS is here to stay.
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tourist
0 # tourist 2015-01-28 15:15
This place is definitely my next holiday destination. Am on Google right now locating the coordinates.
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mashotopiyana
0 # mashotopiyana 2015-02-01 14:02
MuTourist kana woinda wondiudzawozve tobatana mwana wamai
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Chemical Soluton
0 # Chemical Soluton 2015-01-28 17:03
I would prefer to be a guest and not a friend or a husband.
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Solo
0 # Solo 2015-01-28 19:18
Quoting Chemical Soluton:
I would prefer to be a guest and not a friend or a husband.


Women need love not hit and run.
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Dr.Mboroyamambo
0 # Dr.Mboroyamambo 2015-01-28 17:23
evil practices
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selele
+2 # selele 2015-01-28 17:46
Quoting Dr.[censored]yamambo:
evil practices

Why? We seem to overrate "ownership" of sex partners. Some cultures have liberated themselves from it. Kwete zvenyu zvekuzozviita muchivande.
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Solo
0 # Solo 2015-01-28 19:11
Quoting selele:
Quoting Dr.[censored]yamambo:
evil practices

Why? We seem to overrate "ownership" of sex partners. Some cultures have liberated themselves from it. Kwete zvenyu zvekuzozviita muchivande.


Lust is an evil that shouldn't be promoted. In every human heart there is a dove and a tiger, what people do depends upon which animal they feed inside the heart. Elephants behave like humans; a brother does mate with a sister and so on. If we human behave worse than pigs and dogs it is wrong. The animals use instinct but a human being uses wisdom. There must be a difference between animals and human beings. Do all women like multiple sex partners? A woman is also a human being whose choices must be respected.
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selele
+2 # selele 2015-01-28 20:19
Quoting Solo:
[.............; a brother does mate with a sister and so on. If we human behave worse than pigs and dogs it is wrong. The animals use instinct but a human being uses wisdom. There must be a difference between animals and human beings. Do all women like multiple sex partners? A woman is also a human being whose choices must be respected.

Yes, we should use wisdom and ask women IF they want multiple partners. If she says YES...well fine and a no is a no. This would be wisdom and not a situation where the traditional family rules over women like Moslems do.
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Alisa
0 # Alisa 2015-01-28 20:04
The practice is sickening, why would a normal husband bring his friends to be intimate with his wife. This evil ancient practice has to stop it reduces women to assets owned by their husbands.
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selele
+2 # selele 2015-01-28 20:15
Quoting Alisa:
The practice is sickening, why would a normal husband bring his friends to be intimate with his wife. This evil ancient practice has to stop it reduces women to assets owned by their husbands.

okay the only problem is that its the men deciding. Otherwise IF the women had a say, I wouldn't see anything wrong.
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Solo
0 # Solo 2015-01-28 20:24
We define education as a weapon of liberation against ignorance, poverty and disease. This Namibian Clan is lacking education.

In Zimbabwe people used to do kuzvarira where the poor would surrender their young daughter to a rich family. The poor boy would also work hard at the rich in-laws a process called kutema ugariri. Twins were considered as makunakuna, one had to be killed. With the coming of education, these bad customs vanished. Infact culture can make a human an animal.

The only problem that has to be fixed among Shona people of Zimbabwe is "chiramu". It is similar to this Namibian culture except that it is done between a brother and a brother's wife in private when people are not watching. When people are watching, the brother prepares the brother's wife by exchanging dirty jokes or dirty talk. Some even go on to "touch" in public or private while playing "chiramu". Its a dirty custom that has overstayed.
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selele
+2 # selele 2015-01-29 11:05
Quoting Solo:

.............
The only problem that has to be fixed among Shona people of Zimbabwe is "chiramu". ..... Some even go on to "touch" in public or private while playing "chiramu". Its a dirty custom that has overstayed.

I agree with you 100% Worse off when old men abuse minors calling them "wife" taking advantage of tradition. Pathetic! Ivo anatete unotowona vachiudza vazukuru kuti this is your husband!
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Dofo
0 # Dofo 2015-01-28 21:13
But are they different from animals was there at this place called Ruacana in the north I even saw the walking almost naked but good breed believe me huge and well shaped but very dark the place is hot am a Zim and proud to be
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sumbu
+1 # sumbu 2015-01-29 03:15
Vakadzi vacho munoti hava zvidewo here? Unozonzwa voti kosei shamwari yenyu isisambouye pano; ane akapihwa gudhu saizi.
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selele
+2 # selele 2015-01-29 11:07
Quoting sumbu:
Vakadzi vacho munoti hava zvidewo here? Unozonzwa voti kosei shamwari yenyu isisambouye pano; ane akapihwa gudhu saizi.

Ehe...asingade kuzvambaradzwa ndiani? :lol: The problem we have is that people look at having sex as something dirty.
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Solo
0 # Solo 2015-01-31 18:32
Quoting sumbu:
Vakadzi vacho munoti hava zvidewo here? Unozonzwa voti kosei shamwari yenyu isisambouye pano; ane akapihwa gudhu saizi.


We are very different. There is a normal woman, a mother so to speak. This woman doesn't cheat even if the husband is cheating. Then there is a bitch, that looks after warm blooded males. If you happen to talk to bitches they tell you that what they do isn't entertainment but a tough physical exercise to get money.

There are males, a man and a playboy. A playboy is a the opposite of a bitch. A man loves his wife and kids and doesn't cheat no matter what happens. A male just says "chero zvazvaita".

The point is that there must be a fine line between good and bad. MultiplÈ sex partners is not normal.
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