By Patience Nyagato
The customary practice of ‘chiramu’ has come under the spotlight as one of the factors fuelling cases of indecent assault and rape.
It all started with faint hugs, dirty talk and flirting between Stanford Tsikayi and her younger sister-in-law or ‘muramu’, something which was acceptable in the family setup as they were embracing an old customary practice known as ‘chiramu’.
The innocent but not so innocent practice however escalated into something that both Tsikayi and the family could not accept and landed the 60-year-old man in prison for statutory rape.
Says Tsikayi, “We were very close with my wife’s 15-year old sister. My wife knew everything, but we started getting amorous with the young sister until I grabbed her breasts and one thing led to another.”
While the practice has been in existence since time immemorial as a platform to create lasting relationships, the elderly concur with the younger generation that it is now archaic.
“Chiramu was practised long back to strengthen relations, but nowadays people take it too far, so it is better stopped,” said a concerned citizen.
Another said, “In the past people had respect but these days things have changed. I for one would not want my young sister to engage in such kind of games with my husband.”
Women’s rights organisations say they have received numerous reports of rape, indecent assault and domestic violence born out of traditional practices like’ Chiramu’.
“Certainly we have received numerous cases where chiramu has resulted in sexual harassment or even ultimately rape. This is because as a culture we have normalised chiramu to the extent that someone can be abused and think its normal and only realise later when there is awareness that it was not a normal relationship. This makes the girl child vulnerable in the family setup,” says Musasa Advocacy and communications officer, Rotina Mafume Musara.
Whether good or bad the facts on the ground are difficult to ignore.