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Year: 2006 Type: Article Language: English

Talk of ‘ensonga za Ssenga’ (Ssenga matters) among the Baganda of Uganda signifies an institution that has endured through centuries as a tradition of sexual initiation. At the helm is the paternal aunt (or surrogate versions thereof) whose role is to tutor young women in a range of sexual matters, including pre-menarche practices, pre-marriage preparation, erotics and reproduction. In contemporary Uganda, commercial Ssenga services abound, with Ssenga columns and call-in radio programmes and Ssenga booklets on sale in Kampala’s streets. The institution is being transformed by “modernization” and urbanization, re-drawing the boundaries of Ssenga to suit the times. This article suggests that while Ssenga facilitates and reinforces patriarchal power, at the same time it subverts and parodies patriarchy. Through a deconstruction of the arrangement of gender and sexuality in Ssenga, this article investigates constructs of Kiganda sexuality, and of femininity and masculinity within them.

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