Law gets tougher over ini­ti­a­tion

CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­

Those re­spon­si­ble for the death of boys in ini­ti­a­tion schools across the East­ern Cape will fi­nally face the full might of the law – and a pos­si­ble 25 years in jail.

The East­ern Cape Cus­tom­ary Male Ini­ti­a­tion Prac­tice Bill of 2015 was passed this week af­ter months of con­sul­ta­tions with tra­di­tional lead­ers. Passed unan­i­mously in the Bhisho leg­is­la­ture, it now only awaits the sig­na­ture of Premier Phu­mulo Ma­su­alle to be gazetted into law.

At its cen­tre is the role of tra­di­tional lead­ers as cus­to­di­ans of rites and cus­toms who will now have to en­sure com­pli­ance by both tra­di­tional sur­geons (in­g­cibi) and tra­di­tional nurses (amakhankatha).

The East­ern Cape Ap­pli­ca­tion of Health Stan­dards in Tra­di­tional Male Cir­cum­ci­sion Act of 2001, which pre­vi­ously gov­erned ini­ti­a­tion in the prov­ince and fo­cused on health stan­dards, was re­pealed in favour of the new bill.

Ac­cord­ing to the new law, “[any] per­son who con­ducts or opens an ini­ti­a­tion school with­out writ­ten per­mis­sion from the MEC for health ... and writ­ten ap­proval is­sued by the rel­e­vant tra­di­tional lead­er­ship, is guilty of an of­fence and, upon conviction, is li­able to a fine not ex­ceed­ing R20 000 or 12 months’ im­pris­on­ment, or both”.

“If the open­ing of such an il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion school re­sults in the in­jury or death of ini­ti­ates, such per­son shall be charged with at­tempted mur­der or mur­der and, upon conviction, sen­tenced to not more than 25 years’ im­pris­on­ment, de­pend­ing on the num­ber of ini­ti­ates in­volved.”

The bill fur­ther states that any­one who ad­mits or ap­proves the ad­mis­sion of a child younger than 18 to an ini­ti­a­tion school will be sent to prison for six months, fined R10 000, or both.

To qual­ify as a tra­di­tional nurse, can­di­dates have to have grad­u­ated from ini­ti­a­tion school and have 10 years’ proven ex­pe­ri­ence in car­ing for ini­ti­ates. The tra­di­tional nurse may also not have been con­victed of a crime. Amakhankatha would be re­quired to reg­is­ter with their rel­e­vant tra­di­tional lead­er­ship and “con­duct them­selves in a fit and proper man­ner”.

In­g­cibi, mean­while, can only be el­i­gi­ble if they have trusted ex­pe­ri­ence and a good track record, and at least five years of trace­able ex­pe­ri­ence un­der the su­per­vi­sion of a qual­i­fied tra­di­tional sur­geon. To qual­ify, an in­g­cibi should have a writ­ten rec­om­men­da­tion from a qual­i­fied tra­di­tional sur­geon, tra­di­tional leader or ini­ti­a­tion work­ing com­mit­tee.

Tra­di­tional lead­ers who ne­glect their du­ties to en­sure safe tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sion will face an in­quiry chaired by an in­de­pen­dent per­son and face sanc­tions if found guilty.

Chiefs also have to en­sure that an ini­ti­a­tion work­ing com­mit­tee is es­tab­lished in their area, and that it func­tions prop­erly and takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for ini­ti­a­tion schools. It is also the chiefs’ re­spon­si­bil­ity to iden­tify and al­lo­cate ap­pro­pri­ate sites for ini­ti­a­tion schools.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties wel­comed the bill, with the ANC cau­cus call­ing on Ma­su­alle to sign it into law ur­gently so it can start be­ing ap­plied dur­ing the sum­mer ini­ti­a­tion sea­son, which started last week.

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