Many tribes all over the world experience agonising rites of passage in order to test faith, dexterity and maturity, even at the risk of extreme pain. Generally, girls become women and are now ready to marry, while boys evolve into men, eager to be treated as adults and be considered valuable members of the community. These are some of the heart-wrenching initiation rites in Africa: 

1. Sepik scarification:


The tribes living along the Sepik river in Papua New Guinea have used the tradition of scarification to mature their boys into men for decades. The ceremony requires the youth to be cut along his back, chest and buttocks in elaborate patterns, to mimic the coarse skin of a crocodile. It is thought that this reptilian divinity consumes his youth during the bloody process, leaving behind a man in his place.

2. Xhosa male circumcision:


Among the Xhosa people of South Africa, the male initiate is shaved, and he’s given a feast, before being taken to the mountains where a hut is built for him by his family. The hut will be his home for the next several weeks, so it’s fortified to keep insects and animals away. The surgeon appears and conducts the circumcision. The foreskin is removed, often with a dull blade, and the boy is left alone. He takes refuge in his hut where he cannot eat or drink water until he’s healed.

3. Fulani whip match:


For the Benin Fulani people’s boys to be considered men, they must endure a tormenting bloody whip match that will test their strength, self-control and bravery. The initiate picks a long stick and sharpens it in a way that will guarantee the most painful blow with every whip. Once he has his weapon, clans from all over gather for the ceremony, where two youths are pitted against each other. A series of whips, lashes and blows are exchanged between each boy. Who shows the more courage is the winner.

4. Sabiny female circumcision:


Girls of the Sabiny tribe, in Uganda, go through genital mutilation to achieve womanhood. Female circumcisions are complete when the clitoris is partially cut or completely removed. The Sabiny believe this will make a woman faithful to her husband, and keep her from sexual promiscuity.

5. Blood initiation:


The Matausa of Papua New Guinea believe that if a boy doesn’t complete the blood initiation, he may suffer the results his entire life. In order to do this, they must slide two thin wooden canes down their throats to induce vomiting several times to empty their stomachs. Afterward, a collection of reeds are inserted into the initiate’s nose to further expel bad influence. Finally, they must endure repeated stabbings to the tongue. This bloody ritual thus purifies them, and they are truly men afterward.

6. Sleeping with a hyena:


According to a tradition in Nsanje Malawi, sleeping with a hyena is the final part of transition into womanhood. It’s a must for girls as young as 12 years old to be made to have sex with a paid sex worker known as a “hyena” once they reach puberty. The act is not seen by village elders as rape, but as a form of ritual cleansing. A hyena, named Eric, has slept with 104 women in the past 31 years whereas he is HIV positive.