IAFRICA.COM, Capetown, 15 August 2003.


Circumcision slammed as 'barbarism'

Posted Fri, 15 Aug 2003

The South African Medical Journal has condemned what it calls the "barbarism" practised on boys in the name of traditional circumcision rituals.

"Many of the so-called circumcision schools of today are fake, and deadly," says SAMJ editor Daniel Ncayiyana in the latest edition of the journal.

"They have very little to do with the traditional ethos and practice of this ancient ritual, and something must be done to stop the carnage."

His call comes in the wake of a fresh crop of deaths and mutilations caused by traditional-style circumcisions.

In the Eastern Cape alone this winter, 25 initiates died, 16 had to have their penises amputated and 92 were admitted to hospitals.

Ncayiyana said that anywhere else in the world this kind of "mayhem" would have evoked community outrage and urgent and drastic action to stop it.

"Why are we not sufficiently agitated by the slaughter to find ways to stop it?" he asked.

He said the ritual had traditionally been about preparing youngsters for the challenges of manhood in the rural world in which they lived, and had been performed by experienced operators and overseen by the community.

However, a researcher in the Limpopo province had found that of late, the practice had degenerated into a money-making exercise for those running the schools, and that boys as young as six years were admitted.

Malpractices include gratuitous beatings and other forms of physical abuse, extreme exposure to the elements, nutritional deprivation and the withholding of medicines from the chronically ill.

Ncayiyana said all schools should be registered, all circumcisors be required to undergo training and certification, and all circumcision venues should pass inspection.

These three steps would see many lives saved and the ritual of circumcision "regain its traditional dignity".

The Eastern Cape enacted legislation on circumcision two years ago, while a similar regulatory bill has been introduced in the Free State.


(File prepared 18 June 2003)