There are various harmful traditional practices and beliefs across the different parts of Ethiopia. Shilshalo, which is yet little known about, is one of these practices existing in Argoba, a community in Amhara National Regional State of Ethiopia. This study was conducted to explore the various features associated with the practice of Shilshalo.
To address the objective of the study, qualitative approach with case study design was employed. Purposive sampling technique was used to select the participants of the study. Data were collected through interview and focus group discussion and analyzed using thematic qualitative analysis technique.
This study found that Shilshalo is practiced by unmarried young boys and girls as a substitute for sexual intercourse. The actors conduct all activities performed during sexual intercourse except inserting the boy’s genital organ (penis) into the girl’s (vagina). The activities include warming up the girls’ body by hand, kissing and brushing the girl’s thigh and the areas around the outer part of the vagina with the erected penis. Shilshalo is practiced in two ways, i.e. between a boy and a girl, and between boys and a girl. This study also indicated that most members of the Argoba community including the actors consider Shilshalo as a beneficial cultural practice, yet the most shocking story is that some teenage girls experienced unwanted pregnancy without losing their virginity. In addition to virgin pregnancy, Shilshalo exposed girls to STIs, psycho-social problems and physical injuries.
This study concluded that Shilshalo is a harmful traditional practice that severely affects the lives of girls. The overall health and social well beings of girls are affected by different saddles that came from it. It brings almost all kinds of consequences that the other harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriage bring. It is also worse than the other harmful traditional practices as it poses virgin pregnancy as an additional consequence. Therefore, it is suggested that international and national organizations working on issues related to harmful traditional practice should pay due attention to Shilshalo just like what they are doing with female genital mutilation and early marriage.