THE CIRCUMCISION NEWS LIBRARY
EDITORIAL COMMENT ***************************** CIRCUMCISION TIME TO RETHINK The deaths and dreadful mutilation of young Transkei men undergoing circumcision initiation rites have shocked the nation. Many will share the grief of families who have so unnecessarily lost sons in the youthful bloom of life. The quest for manhood by the 53 candidates turned into a nightmare at the hands of the Lusikisiki "bush surgeon" and the inadequate aftercare that followed. Survivors have been hospitalised with septic wounds and dehydration, and some will now have to undergo amputation. These will be both physically and mentally scarred in a nightmare way, losing the manhood they sought through timehonoured custom. It would be quite inappropriate for this newspaper to comment on the merits of such circumcision. That is a matter of tradition. But the surgical method and aftercare are different. There is always the AIDS risk. And the Lusikisiki tragedy is not the first botched bush circumcision. There have been others, and the warning bells have been sounded before. Thankfully, now it has become a matter of urgency and is receiving attention at the highest level. Certainly, there will always be a place for traditional healing and traditional medicines. but traditional methods have long been surpassed by sophisticated medical science - available to all in this country. And modern medicine can ensure that the horrors of Lusikisiki are not repeated. The time has surely arrived for such sophisticated procedures to be incorporated into the traditional rites. ***************************** EP HERALD, PO Box 1117, Port Elizabeth 6000 Tel 041-5047911 Fax 041-554966 ***************************** [Anonymous] COMMENT: Circumcision is a very important custom; this editor is at pains not to criticise either the institution nor the practice. But he misses the point that part of the institution is the "ordeal" aspect that accompanies traditional circumcision rites. As to the importance: when Pres Mandela visited his home town in the Eastern Cape he let slip (deliberately, I think) that he went through the traditional circumcision school. This was because he is seen as a progressive liberal and he was just re-inforcing his credentials with the traditionalists who feel threatened by the dominant middle classes in the ANC hierarchy. Apart from the centrality of the rite in traditional initiation, a further complication is the exaggerated claims for "manhood" - part of the role circumcision ordeals play in "macho" gender stereotyping in this society. Note that as the youths under discussion are realy school boys, they are always reported as "young men" as they have been circumcised. "bush surgeons" - There is a code implicit here; "going to the bush" is an euphemism for "going for initiation", refering both to the custom of withdrawing from society for the rituals and "bush" as SA speak for the "Boondocks" or the equivalent Australian "outback". Traditionally, in pre-colonial days, the death penalty was incurred for witchcraft and inept circumcisers. There has been a spate of witchcraft "executions" in the Northern Province during the last year (in access of 300) and its government is taking urgent steps by officially recognising that the possibility of witchcraft exists, but outlawing witchcraft accusations. We are a society in transition...