The Hamar tribe from the village of Turmi in southern Ethiopia and near the Kenyan border is known for their unique custom of “bull jumping,” which initiates a boy into manhood.
Women are smothered in butter and flogged to give encouragement to boys ‘on brink of adulthood’ who leap over bulls in traditional Ethiopian coming of age ceremony.
The women beg men to beat them as part of the custom. They dance and invite whipping from men who have recently been initiated; this shows their support of the initiate, and their scars give them a say on who they marry.
The beatings go on until their backs turn bloody. During the beatings, women are not allowed to scream. They do not also flee the ceremony but rather beg the men to beat them over and over again.
It also means that if they struggle later in life, the women can call on those who have whipped them for help.
The ritual sees a boy walk up to and jump over seven bulls to become a man, while the tribe – who are mainly cattle ranchers – watch.
After the sometimes brutal ceremony, known as Ukuli Bula, the boy becomes a man and is allowed to marry.
The ceremony is believed to be a demonstration of the women’s capacity for love, and in later life – perhaps when they’ve become widowed – they will look to the boys who whipped them years before to request help.
The scars on her back are said to be proof of her sacrifice for the man, and it is therefore impossible for the man to refuse her needs in hard times or emergencies.