Tra­di­tional ver­sus med­i­cal cir­cum­ci­sion

A look into which pro­ce­dure is the best and safest op­tion

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Vin­cent Phahlane

SOME cul­tures be­lieve that go­ing to the moun­tain to get cir­cum­cised is a rite of pas­sage into man­hood. How­ever, there are some men who choose to get cir­cum­cised by a med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner, which is a mi­nor sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure con­ducted with ster­ile equip­ment by qual­i­fied prac­ti­tion­ers and fol­low up care is pro­vided, min­imis­ing the risk of com­pli­ca­tions.


Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, cir­cum­ci­sion for men be­gan as a reli­gious sac­ri­fice, a rite of pas­sage mark­ing a boy's en­trance into adult­hood and also per­ceived as a means of re­duc­ing sex­ual plea­sure as sex was seen as dirty or im­pure in some so­ci­eties. Cut­ting off plea­sure pro­duc­ing parts was a way to pu­rify some­one.

Mt­walo Mat­shidiso, a tra­di­tional healer from Se­bo­keng, who performs cir­cum­ci­sions, says tra­di­tional male cir­cum­ci­sion is usu­ally per­formed in a non-clin­i­cal set­ting by a tra­di­tional healer with no for­mal med­i­cal train­ing.

When car­ried out as a rite of pas­sage into man­hood, tra­di­tional male cir­cum­ci­sion is mainly per­formed on ado­les­cents or young men.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, it is im­por­tant to get cir­cum­cised by a healer with a good track record and ex­pe­ri­ence. Un­der no cir­cum­stances should you ever at­tempt to cir­cum­cise your­self, as one small mis­take can be life-threat­en­ing,” he ad­vises.


Mt­walo says tra­di­tional male cir­cum­ci­sion is usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with a cul­tural cer­e­mony to cel­e­brate en­trance into man­hood.

“I still be­lieve in tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sion be­cause it teaches young men cer­tain things about their


cul­tures, such as re­spect­ing el­ders and speak­ing to peo­ple in a cer­tain way. It is a way of hon­our­ing our cul­ture,” says Mt­walo.

He says un­for­tu­nately there are deaths in some ini­ti­a­tion schools and ad­vises par­ents to ver­ify if the ini­ti­a­tion school is li­cenced with qual­i­fied tra­di­tional heal­ers.

“I some­times blame par­ents who take their chil­dren to an ini­ti­a­tion school with­out do­ing their re­search. They should first take their chil­dren for a check-up at the clinic be­fore tak­ing them to an ini­ti­a­tion school,” he ad­vises.

“Many boys lose their lives be­cause they weren’t sup­posed to get ini­ti­ated. I be­lieve that par­ents should take their chil­dren to an ini­ti­a­tion school at the age of 18 or older as they are more ma­ture than younger boys,” he says.


Dr Gabaza Ngob­eni, a med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner based in Jo­han­nes­burg, says med­i­cal cir­cum­ci­sion is a safe sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure, but care must be taken.

“The two ma­jor risks are typ­i­cal of any pro­ce­dure where the skin is cut, namely bleed­ing and get­ting an in­fec­tion. But with proper care and con­stant in­spec­tion, this should not be an is­sue. Two ma­jor ben­e­fits of cir­cum­ci­sion are clean­li­ness and a slightly lower chance of uri­nary tract in­fec­tions. Al­though ben­e­fits ex­ist, they are min­i­mal and are not the de­cid­ing fac­tor to have a cir­cum­ci­sion.”


She says she is not against tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sion, and like Mt­walo, stresses that go­ing for a med­i­cal check-up be­fore go­ing to an ini­ti­a­tion school is im­por­tant.

“Pos­si­ble risk fac­tors as­so­ci­ated with cir­cum­ci­sion such as bleed­ing, in­fec­tion, ex­ces­sive skin re­moval, dif­fi­culty uri­nat­ing and scar­ring seem to be more com­mon as you grow older. This is why many physi­cians urge par­ents to have the pro­ce­dure done early if they are plan­ning to have it done at all,” she says.

“Tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sion is gen­er­ally re­garded as a quick and easy pro­ce­dure, which does not mean the child will be free from any pain. Many feel pain, which is un­bear­able and they end up los­ing their lives.”


Dr Gabaza says both meth­ods are ap­pro­pri­ate, but there are fewer dan­gers when you get cir­cum­cised med­i­cally. “With tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sion, they cut the fore­skin and place tra­di­tional medicine on top of the cut to stop the bleed­ing, which can cause an in­fec­tion. There is also no med­i­ca­tion to stop the pain.”

Mt­walo says not go­ing to an ini­ti­a­tion school does not make one less of a man.

“We come across a lot of deaths be­cause some heal­ers are not well trained. But I still be­lieve in tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sions be­cause it is part of our cul­ture,” says Mt­walo.

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