Virginity is as important as the eyes, if not more, for a bride. In our
tradition, if a bride is not a virgin, the next day after her wedding you
take her back to her parents' house and make her wear a wonciò and you put her astride a donkey. This occurrence is considered a disgrace by the whole family. During the war, the people of the city took refuge in the countryside. To integrate, you needed many sacrifices, for example, you had to take twenty litres of water on your shoulder, even if the well was located three or four kilometres away. In 1981 I was sheltering in Adi Hamuscté, about twenty kilometres from Asmara. One afternoon they arrived, in the house where I was sheltering, a handsome youth and four old men and they explained to me that the youth, whom I had never seen before then, wanted to marry me because the day before he had had the misfortune to discover his bride had been violated! If I had refused their proposal and if my father had agreed with the groom I would have risked either to be married off against my will or to be cursed by my father. The curse of one's parents is much feared by children! At this point I had an idea, which was to declare that I too had had an irreparable incident...! I let you imagine the reaction of my father who in our community also came to be considered disgraced. This youth of ours without opening his mouth went in search of his virgin!

(*) a type of blanket made of rough wool, black, normally used for the traditional sauna reserved only for women.

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