Akampene Island on Lake Bunyonyi is better known as Punishment Island was the final stop for ritually humiliated, abandoned unmarried pregnant girls.
Good girls gone bad in the eyes of the African village
|Good girls gone bad in the eyes of the African village|
The Bakiga tribe "people of the mountains" lived around Punishment Island having arrived from Rwanda in the 17th and 18th centuries. Akampene or Punishment Island is little more than a 100 foot raised muddy platform that sticks out from the lake. Lake Bunyonyi off Uganda's south west coast has 29 Islands, with Akampene Island better known as Punishment Island being the most famous.
Bakiga tribes people would ritually abandon unmarried pregnant girls on Punishment Island. The tiny island was a wasteland to leave pregnant girls to die since they were no longer of value to the family since an unmarried pregnant girl could not bring the family a bride price and was therefore useless.
|Canoe filled with tears|
The ritually humiliated unmarried pregnant girls would not arrive in a single canoe with their family; there would be a whole flotilla of scornful, taunting villagers to abandon the no longer profitable girl on Punishment Island. This ritual was used to ensure that the humiliating spectacle deterrent to other girls that they dare not bring shame and humiliation to the village.
Punishment Island was also used to frighten young girls to show what would happen to them if they became pregnant before marriage however, the most horrific part of being exiled to Punishment Island was not being abandoned with any food or water, it was attempting to swim back to the mainland. Many attempted to swim across Africa’s second deepest lake, Lake Bunyonyi against strong waves and infested waters but died in their attempts.
|Punishment Island today|
Today, Punishment Island is one of the prominent tourist sites on Lake Bunyonyi because of its torrid history. The Island is being eroded by nature although a section of locals in Kabale District of Uganda believe the spirits of the girls that died there could be the reason for its slow destruction. The practice ended in the mid-twentieth century however; there are still survivors from Punishment Island alive today to tell their stories.