Female initiation: becoming a woman among the Basotho
Du Plooy, Shirley
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The aim of this study was to investigate and report on female initiation among the Basotho of the rural eastern Free State and Lesotho. Triangulating the data gleaned with multiple methods and techniques (participant observation, the use of key informants, in- depth interviews, life histories), a descriptive account of the initiation process was possible. With the empirical evidence, a number of issues could be addressed. Firstly, the lacuna in the existing Southern African ethnographic literature concerning initiation, particularly that of girls is filled. Secondly, applying Van Gennep’s (1909) tripartite scheme for rites of passage, a theoretical framework, unlike abstaining only with a detailed ethnographic description, on the one hand was used particularly in the evaluation and analysis of the data, and on the other offered an opportunity to verify the applicability of said scheme. Thirdly, not only did this study attempt to answer the question of the occurrence of female circumcision among the Basotho, it argues that the existing literature does not clearly distinguish between the two actions ‘to initiate’ and ‘to circumcise’, thereby placing their credibility in question.