Discover more from Queer Lore: a POC perspective on LGBTQ history and folklore
LGBTQ+ people in Southern Africa
Non-heteronormative unions in Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa
In the … South African country of Lesotho, young women in the 1950s began to participate in what became an institutionalized peer counselling system… “The couple treat the friendship like an affair, or romance; hugging, kissing and sexual relations are part of it.” From the perspective of Lesotho society, these relationships were considered harmless...
See also Kendall, K. Limakatso (1998b). "'When a Woman Loves a Woman' in Lesotho: Love, Sex, and the (Western) Construction of Homophobia" in MURRAY & ROSCOE, BOY-WIVES & FEMALE HUSBANDS (arcados.ch)
Oupanga between unmarried Herero women
According to The History of human marriage v. 3 - Edward Westermarck , oupanga is a custom of intimate friendships formalized by mutual presents. Between married men, the arrangement may involve sharing of property and wives and could be dissolved at any time. An oupanga between 2 unmarried women can take the form of a lesbian relationship.
“An oupanga may be formed by two unmarried women, who thereby not only promise to stand by each other in all circumstances, but also enter into sexual relations with each other.”
Inkotshane (Zulu), nkhonsthana (Tsonga), tinkonkana (Mpondo)
Indeed, homosexual marriage was documented among the Zulu, Tsonga and Mpondo migrant workers of South Africa at least since the early nineteenth century. Boy-wives were known by various names such as inkotshane (Zulu), nkhonsthana (Tsonga), tinkonkana (Mpondo), etc. and were procured by paying a bride price to the boy’s older brother. Wedding ceremonies involved a traditional dance in which the male brides crossdressed and wore false breasts.
The Shangaan/Tsonga ethnic group lives in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
In the 18th century the Khoikhoi of South Africa used the word koetsire to describe men considered sexually receptive to other men, and soregus was the word they used for a friendship which involved same-sex masturbation.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation tweeted about koetsire too:
The wives of the Rain Queen of Lovedu
It should be noted that these woman-woman unions do not fit the Western definition of “lesbian.” Like heterosexual royal unions in many other parts of the world, these spousal unions were untaken primarily as political alliances. Sexual orientation is not a factor.
From Rain Queen - Wikipedia :
She … has many "wives", as they are referred to in the Balobedu language. These are not spouses in the usual sense of the word; as a queen regnant, she has the equivalent of royal court servants, or ladies-in-waiting, sent from many villages all over the Balobedu Kingdom. These wives were selected by The Queen's Royal Council and in general are from the households of the subject chiefs. This ritual of "bride giving" is strictly a form of diplomacy to ensure loyalty to the Queen.
Not an exhaustive list.
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