Sambien Sexual Abuse in Papua, New Guinea

(Just a note that photos for this topic were difficult to obtain, so the pictures here are of natives of Papua, New Guinea but not necessarily of people who participage in these unusual sexual acts.) 

Last year I was fascinated by Christian Amanpour’s documentary series called “Sex Around the World” and have been doing quite a bit of research about different customs since watching the entire series.
 
Some of the things I have found were interesting and fun, especially about marriage traditions in other cultures.
 
But some of the things I learned were absolutely heartbreaking.
 
If there’s a strange sexual custom in the world, I’m going to learn about it and share it with you; even if it seems bizarre or not in any way sexy. In this case, it is absolutely child abuse and pedophilia, and not in any way consensual, and it is important to know what is going on around the world, and when possible, to try to help when people (esp children) are being hurt.
 
Researching the topic for this article, however, made me extremely uncomfortable. I learned that there are children being abused under the horrifying tradition of “ritualized homosexuality”, or actually, pedophilia.
 
There is a debate about whether Americans should impose their views on other cultures, and how “this is their tradition, so Americans should mind their own business”.
 
But in “Warrior Marks,” by Prathiba Palmer and Alice Walker, Walker explains how she came to accept her role as a black female American who decided to help to eradicate female genital mutilation in African countries, and her desire to aid young girls who have endured this horrific experience.
 
In her words, “Torture is not culture.”
 
I wanted to try to understand more about how this ritual came about and why, and to gather as much information as possible about the facts so that I could bring it to you.
 

The Sambia tribe are a clan of mountain-dwellers, hunters and farmers who live on the outskirts of the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua, New Guinea.

Social anthropologists have studied the Sambien tribe for their unusual custom of “ritualized homosexuality” and semen ingestion with pubescent young boys in a ceremony dedicated to transforming the young boys into men according to Sambien beliefs.

The Sambiens believe that this rite of passage for boys who are lacking masculinity, courage and bravery, all characteristics expected of strong warriors. 

Jurungdu is a substance (formed from semen) which the boys must swallow during sexual acts.

Their strange Sambien ceremony begins when boys are around the age of 6 years old and goes on for about 10 years, consisting of 6 separate stages.

First, they are taught that women can be dangerous to men, so they are separated from girls for about 10 years.

To become a man, and especially a fierce warrior, young men are must isolate themselves from their mothers and the girls and women around them to prove their masculinity and ability to be independent and to be able to live without them.

Next sharp sticks are shoved up their nostrils, causing them to bleed profusely.

This torture is done to teach them to withstand pain and to learn to be able to endure it.

Then, the boys are taught to perform fellatio on the elders of the tribe and to swallow their semen, and forced to endure anal sex.

Since the Sambien tribe believes that a man’s semen contains a masculine spirit, they feel it is their duty to consume it in order to become the strongest warriors in their tribe.

Young boys must “accumulate” semen for several years, either by regularly receiving anal penetration, or by swallowing the ejaculation of male elders.

This ancient custom springs from a religious belief system that regards sperm as the essential channel of masculine energy; puny boys, they believe, are only transformed into virile warriors if they ingest large quantities of sperm.

The training is viewed as a vital and indispensable piece of turning into a man, and not only within the Sambian tribe. These ceremonies are involving homosexuality are done by various Melanesian tribesmen in New Guinea and nearby islands.

Elder Namba chiefs of the New Hebrides Islands have numerous boy sex partners; the Keraki of the Papuan lowlands sodomize boys at a bull-roarer ceremony;  and the Great Plateau Kaluli childred are given to older men selected by their fathers.

Many tribes — like the Etoro of the Papuan Plateau — claim that semen does not even exist in boys until it is orally or anally “planted.”

The nearby Jacquai clan alludes to the adult “teacher” or “initiator” who  penetrates the children as “mo-e” (the butt father) and the small boys as “mo-mog” (rear-end child).

After the initiation process of the boys being givers and receivers or oral sex with other men for 10 years, only then have they reached adulthood and can marry and are then expected to be mostly be heterosexual, other than times they are initiating new, younger boys.

Different societies around the world have distinctive masculinization customs that may seem strange to Westerners, but perhaps to Sambiens, bar mitzvahs and circumcisions of young Jewish men as a rite of passage may sound bizarre. 

What do you think about this ritual, and do you believe Americans should mind their own business and not get involved, or that we have a responsibility to help when children are involved?

Have you ever heard of strange, sexual customs around the world? Share your thoughts below.

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