Genital manipulation as a key to marital happiness
A lot of cultures in Malawi demands that you have elongated labiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (makutu) to make your husband happy at the expense of female sexual pleasure. This practice is also emphasised in secondary schools, (especially girls boarding schools) and through counselling sessions held before marriage (chilangizo). However, experts have noted the health effects of such a practice, as CHEU MITA writes:
At a meeting held in Salima recently jointly hosted by Men for Gender Equality Now (Megen) and UNFPA it was noted that the issue of genital manipulation also known as kukoka is something that is widely practised in Malawi, but it has harmful effects.
Pulling of the vaginal lips (labia) can affect the normal functions of the labia and expose the woman to infections. The labia are a natural coverage of the vagina and provide protection against entry of infections into the internal sexual organs. Pulling or changing its shape will likely limit its natural response, reduce flexibility and sensitivity, characteristics that are very important to its functions as part of the sexual organ, therefore, bringing problems at childbirth. Usually pulling or kukoka is done using local herbs such as mtsatsi (castor oil) or other herbs used with a certain amount of heat. This affects the skin as well as other glands that help keep the female sexual organs healthy and natural.
It is against this background that young girls should be provided with appropriate and accurate information that prepares them to naturally enjoy sex. The female genital organs comprise a number of structures with different functions including the clitoris and its surrounding hood that is responsible for providing stimulation for enjoyable sex and not necessarily the labia.
The discussions further revealed that what most women do not know is that sex is in the mind. When both the man and a woman are psychologically prepared for sex then each one of them will enjoy sex and like each otherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s company.
In a campfire session where people freely talked about sex and sexual experiences, the men revealed that they do not even notice what their partners have or do not have in terms of the labia during the sexual act.
So where and when are girls told to pull away? According to a Malawi Human Rights Commission study on cultural practices and their impact on the enjoyment of human rights, during chinamwali (initiation ceremonies), the girls are sometimes checked to ensure that their labia are pulled or extended.
The report notes that young girls are taught how to pull their labia with the help of a friend with the purpose of giving the girlsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ sexual partners maximum pleasure during sexual intercourse.
“It was intimated that a woman whose genital parts are not pulled does not arouse a man during sexual intercourse because the man has nothing to caress during foreplay. As one focus group discussion participant in the Central Region put it, “njinga yopanda zogwilira siikwereka“, (a bicycle without handles cannot be mounted properly).
The study noted that too long labia produce too much vaginal fluid, and they also give women problems when walking due to friction.
“In most of the areas covered by this study, extended labia were held in very high regard and most respondents were of the view that this practice should be maintained because, among other reasons, it helps strengthen marriages,” reads the report in part.
Ã¢â‚¬â€Express your views on this by writing to us on