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Meet Namibia’s OvaHimba Tribe Who Swap Their Wives And Offer Sex To Guests

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Swinging, sometimes called wife swapping, husband swapping or partner swapping, is a non-monogamous behaviour in which both singles and partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity.Swinging is a form of open marriage. People may choose a swinging lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Many cite an increased quality, quantity, and frequency of sex. Some people may engage in swinging to add variety into their otherwise conventional sex lives or due to their curiosity. Some couples see swinging as a healthy outlet and means to strengthen their relationship.The phenomenon of swinging, or at least its wider discussion and practice, is regarded by some as arising from the freer attitudes to sexual activity after the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the invention and availability of the contraceptive pill, and the emergence of treatments for many of the sexually transmitted diseases that were known at that time.The adoption of safe sex practices became more common in the late 1980s. Yet, in a small corner of northern Namibia, in the Kunene Region (formerly Kaokoland) and on the other side of the Kunene River in Angola, lives the indigenous people of Himba (singular: OmuHimba, plural: OvaHimba), who has been practising wife swapping for generations.With a population of over 86,000, the OvaHimba are a semi-nomadic, pastoralist people, culturally distinguishable from the Herero people in northern Namibia and southern Angola, and speak OtjiHimba, a variety of Herero, which belongs to the Bantu family within Niger–Congo.Many still reside in pole-and-mud huts and both men and women go bare-chested.The women engage in the daily activity of milking their cows, taking care of the children and other extensive duties while the men go hunting leaving, sometimes, for an extended period of time.The women wear short skirts of goat skin, carved iron and cow shell jewellery and cover their braided locks in thick red ochre paste, which they also rub on their skin as a sun screen. The OvaHimba are polygamous and also practice early arranged marriages. Young Himba girls are married to male partners chosen by their fathers once they attain puberty.Wife swapping practice known as “okujepisa omukazendu” – which loosely means “offering a wife to a guest” – among the OvaHimba is more of a gentlemen’s agreement where friends can have sex with each others’ wives with no strings attached.“It’s a culture that gives us unity and friendship,” said Kazeongere Tjeundo, a lawmaker and deputy president of the opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia. Unlike any modern-day swinging, the OvaHimba make no random draw to pair couples. They meet in their own homes, while the husband or wife of the other party is banished to a separate hut during the exchange.When a visitor comes knocking, a man shows his approval and pleasure of seeing his guest by giving him the Okujepisa Omukazendu treatment. This practice literally means that his wife is given to his guest to spend the night while the husband sleeps in another room. In a case where there is no available room, her husband will sleep outside.This tradition reduces jealousy and fosters relationships. The woman has little or no opinion in the decision making. Submission to her husband’s demands come first. She has an option of refusing to sleep with him but has to sleep in the same room as the guest. She is also entitled to give her friends to her husband when they visit but this rarely happens.The cruse of the tradition basically seem to be about discretion. “It’s up to you to choose [among] your mates who you like the most … to allow him to sleep with your wife,” said Tjeundo, a member of the Ovahimba ethnic group.Photo Credit: Getty/ Trevor Cole 

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