Zimbabwe: Prohibited Close Family Intimacy


There are some practices in our cultures that have been misused in the name of family bonding. We now see a deliberate twisting of some customary values in an effort to gain unsolicited unholy liaisons within family members.

One traditional practice which is meant to strengthen relations is that of "chiramu", where the younger sister of a wife acts as a "mini-wife" to the sister's husband. This should be restricted to certain chores like cooking, washing, serving food and meant to prepare the youngsters for adulthood. It was intended to groom girls in terms of responsibilities.

The relationship between the husband and the younger sister-in-law was allowed to blossom under the watchful eye of the wife.

With time, some cunning husbands would take advantage of the privilege to go beyond the set limits. It would start off with jokes of a flirting nature, then proceed to faint hugs. If left unguided, it would escalate into touching and grabbing of the breasts or other intimate parts. From then on, the "hands-on" acts would lead to other more amorous activities that would be committed behind the sister's back. It is nowadays a common occurrence to come across women or young girls being impregnated by their elder sisters' husbands. This then leads into a vicious breakdown of the sisters' relationships. The acrimony would last a lifetime.

In an effort to curtail uncontrolled behaviours by men towards their wife's younger sisters, the Lord our God put in place a statute that would prevent any possible marriage between a husband and the wife's sister: "You shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive" (Leviticus 18:18). Clearly God foresaw that such liaisons would lead to lifelong blood rivalry between sisters. Siblings, unlike outsiders, will always meet or come together at family gatherings or functions. Jealousy knows no bounds. They say hell has no fury like a scorned woman, hence that fury might be turned into a rage against the guilty sister.

Many other scenarios similar to the chiramu practice have been in existence since time immemorial, as a means to create lasting relationships. Although less frequently abused, we also have the opposite: sister-in-law and younger brother-in-law relationship (maiguru and babamudiki).

There is also the "mbuya nemuzukuru or sekuru nemuzukuru play-acting relationships", that at times blossom beyond the norm. It is observed that a majority of sexual violations that occur within these groups of close family members are perpetrated mostly towards underage girls and boys sometimes under the pretext of coaching.

There are other unsanctioned and shameful acts that happen within the homes, especially of minor children being taken advantage of by the very people who are supposed to protect them. Even little children below the age of 10 are sometimes sexually violated by close relatives. Cases of fathers who have abused their own daughters have happened and featured on media platforms and in the courts of law. We sometimes wonder what possesses these people to do such diabolic acts. It has been noted that some of these activities are connected to rituals, often at the instigation of some witchdoctors or sangomas. Those who prescribe such directives must be equally punished, as they are the scourge of our society. The world should rid itself of such filthy elements. It was with this in mind that the Lord our God clearly defined some boundaries in romantic matters, and also pronounced particular sentences for offenders.

In Leviticus 18:1-17 the Lord our God spoke: "None of you shall approach any one near of kin to him to uncover nakedness. I am the Lord (signature). You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife (stepmother); it is your father's nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister (stepsister), the daughter of your father or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or abroad. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness.

"You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, begotten by your father, since she is your sister. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is your father's near kinswoman. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, for she is your mother's near kinswoman. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son's wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness.

"You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; she is your brother's nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter (both the mother and the daughter), and you shall not take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are your near kinswoman; it is wickedness." The Heavenly Father is very disgusted with such acts that He gave detrimental sentences for such things.

In Leviticus 20:10-21, the Lord in His anger proclaimed: "The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.

"If a man lies with a daughter-in-law, both of them have committed an abomination, they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.

"If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is wickedness; they shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there be no wickedness among you. If a man takes her sister; a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, it is a shameful thing, and they shall be cut off from the sight the children of their people; he has uncovered his sister's nakedness, he shall bear his iniquity.

"If a man lies with a woman having her sickness (at menstruation), and uncovers her nakedness, he has made her a naked fountain, and he has uncovered the fountain of her blood; both of them shall be cut off from among their people. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister or your father's sister, for that is to make naked ones near kin; they shall bear their iniquity. If a man lies with his uncle's wife, he has uncovered his uncle's nakedness; they shall bear their sin, they shall die childless.

"If a man takes his brother's wife, it is impurity; he has uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless."

I am not an advocate for the death penalty, neither is the Lord our God. He sent His begotten Son, Jesus Christ, for us to be redeemed of such sins. The severity of His sentences was a manifestation of the evilness of such acts. In all our sexual quests, let us be guided by God's proclamations.

Prosper Tingini is the Scribe of the Children of God Missionary Assembly -- God's messengers. Contact details: Mobile and Whatsapp - 0771 260 195. Email address: ptingini@gmail.com

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