Suspend circumcision if killings can’t stop
It is becoming clear that without any positive results being yielded, conferences, endless proposals and recommendations will soon become meaningless. These, and the millions pumped into initiatives to curb deaths at initiations schools, are not making a big difference to those who are affected and likely to be affected.
Young men continue to die amid malpractice and a lack of monitoring systems as they pass into manhood.
Initiation has been left in the hands of the wrong people and is exposed to abuse by profiteers with little consideration for human life, health standards and culture.
Traditional surgeons were once grown men who had been well trained and had their skills passed on to others with the approval of other elders. Nowadays, any man thinking about the R800, sheep, bag of mealie meal and other products he can get from each initiate can easily find an open space in the bush and start his own initiation school.
This does not even consider the hazards of unsterile traditional surgical practices, HIV, physical abuse, underage circumcisions without the consent of parents and the kidnapping of boys by initiation-school principals who want to increase the number of initiates and boost their profits.
If it were possible, I would say: “Let’s take a break from this practice for one winter and one summer while finding real solutions and allow it to recommence once we are sure we have some zero-tolerance measures in place – not on paper.”
In May last year, government gazetted a few recommendations to tackle the increasing challenges of traditional male circumcision. The document said there “seems to be either ineffective or insufficient legislation regulating initiation practices or a disregard for existing law” and “initiation schools are, in general, not properly regulated and managed”.
Now that we all agree, why not wait until we can get it right and stop risking the lives of our young men?
Instead of bickering about Nkandla all the time, parliamentarians should consider legislation that will ensure monitoring and even policing (because bogus traditional surgeons are murdering people), along with anything that will ensure serious consequences for perpetrators.
But mostly, it is something that will ensure young lives are saved. Our government can easily pass laws that have nothing to do with saving lives, but it is seemingly hard for it to come up with regulations that deal with the challenges of initiation schools.
How difficult can it be to quickly come up with specific laws that will ensure the smooth running of schools or to pump millions into a policing unit that will be activated during initiation seasons? Money should not be an issue because we are talking about young lives here. Millions of rands are already being set aside annually in the name of preventing initiation deaths, but the desired results are hard to come by.
This should be classified as wasteful expenditure because young lives continue to be lost.
How else can you explain reports from the Eastern Cape, where, last year, illegal initiation schools increased from 602 in December 2013 to 1 342 (more than doubling) in June last year.
A report last year by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities said 486 lives were lost in initiation schools over the past seven years.
Without hesitation, I would join a campaign saying traditional surgeons must do the teaching and can still be paid, but they should be forced to leave the actual circumcision to medical surgeons. The right to life should supersede traditions, customs and even religion.
Something should be done to stop these greedy fly-by-night traditional surgeons and their untraditional, abusive commercialisation of this sacred rite.
It is time to take all theoretical recommendations and plans and put them into practice to save lives now – or circumcisions should be suspended until we are ready to approach this practice in a more humane way.
A LUCKY ONE A young man at a recognised initiation school in the Eastern Cape. Many others lose their lives in illegal initiations