BBC News, Friday, 30 June 2000,

Circumcision tragedy in South Africa

A boy has died and 24 others have been hospitalised in South Africa after circumcisions performed as part of a rite of passage ceremony went wrong.

The circumcisions had gone wrong in every single case
Police spokesman Mabhelo Ngame

According to police spokesman Inspector Mabhelo Ngame, the boys, aged between 14 and 18 years of age, were in a serious condition in hospital.

There are fears that some may have to have their penises amputated.

The circumcision operations were performed at an initiation school in the town of Bizana in the Eastern Cape province on Thursday evening.

The 25 boys were subsequently rushed to the nearby St Peter's hospital.

"The circumcisions had gone wrong in every single case," said Inspector Ngame.

Xhosa tradition

The young men belong to the Xhosa ethnic group, for whom circumcision is part of the passage into manhood.

The operations are usually performed in June and December when South African schools are on holiday.

Doctors have tried to encourage initiation schools to adopt more hygienic techniques, but these are often rejected by village elders as contrary to traditional teachings.

The South African Government is considering legislation that would make a botched circumcision punishable with a prison sentence of up to five years.

Cite as:
(File prepared 09 September 2001)

Return to CIRP Home Page