Sus­pend cir­cum­ci­sion if killings can’t stop

CityPress - - Voices - Poloko Tau voices@ city­press. co. za

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

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