There are extensive rites and rituals of the Melanesian community at the attainment of puberty. The Melanesians are inhabitants of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia (Irian Jaya), Vanuatu (the former New Hebrides), New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, and some smaller neighboring islands and puberty is a very important rite among these people. But these societies differ in regard to which sex undergoes initiation rites. One of the objectives of the rituals is celebrating and encouraging the physical attractiveness of the teenage years.
Puberty rituals that are much celebrated in the Melanesian society are basically the sex initiation rites of both men and women. In the Sepik River region males were made to undergo extreme, complicated and decorative initiation rites. These included scarification (scarring) as well as inhuman treatment by older males. Even penile sub- incision was prevalent in such societies. But nowadays scarification process has disappeared in the Sepik region except in case of few males who can afford such expensive procedure. In some societies males at puberty were supposed to kill a person and take his head first. But this process was totally stopped by the colonial administration in the 1920 soon after the Europeans came in contact with the region. But comparatively the girls underwent much less cruel puberty rites. Once menstruation start the girls are supposed to undergo a short period of isolation. The Melanesians believe that the relation between menstrual blood and female puberty is clear and according to them menarche (first menstruation) marks the girl’s metamorphosis from a girl to a young women. It transforms and improves her growth, strength, vitality and also boosts her female productive as well as reproductive capacities. Similarly male semen is also considered as an important health booster. It gives men vitality and vigor. The Melanesians as well as Amazonians believe the fetus is formed as a combination of female blood and male semen. Therefore the ritual of puberty is a celebration and cultivation of physical attractiveness of adolescents. The act of giving and receiving gifts in an emotional way is also unique among Melanesian people. (Maschio T).
Arnett, J.J in his book Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood clearly states that puberty in the industrial society begins at a much earlier stage and also ends early. The celebration of adulthood starts at least in the mid-twenties. He calls this period young adulthood. The period of shift is so delayed that it comprises a separate period of life in industrialized society,lasting about as adolescence.
Arnett, J.J (2002): Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood, Prentice Hall.
Maschio T.: Puberty Rituals in Melanesia
Spriggs, Mathew. The Island Melanesians, oxford: Blackwell, 1997
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