Some thoughts on the Hamer “Bull-Jumping Ceremony”

Gert writes: 

As it is well described in the text, the Hamer still practice the annual “Bull Jumping Ceremony” (at different times in different locations) – and as described – during these ceremonies, the young girls allow the men to heavily beat them (as encouragement) with wooden sticks

This might sound harmless enough, but it isn’t – the place actually looks like a slaughterhouse because the girls are being beaten until they have deep, heavily bleeding gashes on their back. Over time, these gashes heal and create deep, thick welts/scars that are said to be “honorific scars”. Seeing Hamer women is something you are unlikely to ever forget – their backs are covered with enormous and multiple scars.

For NGOs it is impossible to work towards change as proclamation no. 612/2009 distinctly prohibit international organisations to work in any area that addresses “equal right, women’s, disabled or children’s rights, abolition of harmful practices, rights-based approaches, etc”.

The only ones who could make a difference are actually tourists…..however, a discussion with the representative of the Ministry of Women’s and Children Affairs revealed some interesting and disturbing insights.

Some of the Hamer elders would actually be prepared to abolish the practice of beating women as they realise that this is a harmful tradition that has no place in a modern-day society – even in their own. However, they will and cannot abolish this practice as it an important source of income: Tourists come for the explicit purpose to witness this ritual and handsomely pay for it !!!! I can just imagine: Back home, they go on the street carrying placards in favour of women’s rights, and on holidays they travel to Ethiopia and take loads of camera shots during the “beating of the women” ceremony. Humans are strange animals, indeed !

I admit, I am probably  overly critical but I think the Bradt Guide could do more to highlight the controversy and to encourage visitors to make a difference? That way, tourism could become some positive factor.




3 thoughts on “Some thoughts on the Hamer “Bull-Jumping Ceremony”

  1. alistair says:

    I agree with you I think guide books should do more to highlight such issues and to try and disuade us from giving our support through attendance and photography

    • philipbriggs says:

      Hi Alistair –

      The interface between tourists and traditional cultures in a murky area. It seems like every other year, another issue relating to tourism in South Omo in particular emerges, and often it is difficult to wade through the different agendas. In this case, I was not aware of this specific issue before. But the very reason I posted Gert’s comment is in order to highlight it. And if everything Gert says is correct, then obviously I would certainly not encourage tourists to attend this ceremony. I will look at it in greater detail for the next edition.

      Cheers, Philip

      • alistair says:

        I agree Philip that this is a difficult subject and not an easy one for the author of a guide to get to grips with. What we should look for is that companies such as Bradt respond in the positive way you have done to Gert’s comment and to actively seek out feedback of this nature

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