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Traditional Circumcisions Take Toll On S. African Boys

Posted: Jul 11, 2015 at 1:58 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

SOUTH AFRICAN experts have called for strengthened standardisation of circumcision procedures as it has claimed a total of 24 lives since winter began in June.

Thuso Maya, a 16-year-old boy from South Africa’s second- largest Xhosa tribe, joined other 200 young boys in circumcision rituals that usually performed at traditional initiation schools in mountains.

“I’m just following the footsteps of my grandfathers. You can’t be called a man if you’re uncircumcised despite your advanced age.

“One has to graduate from a boy to man,” a joyful Maya told Xinhua after undergoing the procedure.

He said he would continue his studies after the initiation rituals.

Maya said he had to endure the painful procedure because he did not want to be called “a coward”.

He succeeded, save and sound. Some of his colleagues, however, were not so fortunate. A boy, who only wanted to be identified as Nathi, said that he lost the tip of his penis during a botched circumcision.

According to local custom, circumcisions are normally viewed as a traditional passage for a young boy to enter manhood.

Every year, a number of young boys die of complications from botched circumcisions by untrained traditional surgeons.

With limited access to food and water, initiates often suffer dehydration and even bleed to death.


This year, there have been nine people who had penis transplant operations due to injuries sustained from botched circumcisions, according to Dr Van der Merwe who has perfumed a successful operation.

At least 21 initiates have lost their lives in the Eastern Cape Province, two in Limpopo and one in Mpumalanga.

“Some of the traditional surgeons have little or no knowledge of how to cut the boys and take care of them after the initiations, ” said Eastern Cape provincial spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.

Statistics from the Human Science Research Council of South Africa show that the HIV prevalence of the youth aged between 15 to 24 has declined from 10.3 percent in 2005 to 7.3 per cent in 2012. With over 400, 000 new HIV infections occurring in 2012.

The South Africa government has to regulate circumcision practice while preserving the traditions.

Bheki Monyetsane, a 57-year-old traditional surgeon, said most of his circumcision procedures were successful after having done that for more than two decades.

“All my procedures are perfect – no deaths and casualties,” he said pointing to a boy who had just underwent circumcision.

In an apparent sigh of profound pain, the boy, without speaking a word, nodded his head, as if to confirm the doctor’s words.

“Like many boys, he will spend at least four weeks in the bushes, waiting for the wound to heal and learning the social responsibilities of being an adult.


In an attempt to prevent death and botched circumcision procedures, urologist Shingai Mtambirwa called for strengthened standardisation of the circumcision procedures.

“The best way to reduce fatalities and reduce pain among the initiates was to standardise the procedures. And also the traditional circumcision programmes should be carried on by a qualified person, because most of these botched circumcisions are being done by people who never did it before.

“The problem is that some of these surgeons don’t know the anatomy of the person well.”

He blamed casualties on untrained traditional surgeons, seeking to make money from initiates’ families.

On Tuesday, the government vowed to criminalise the running of illegal initiation schools.

“We will not tolerate people who are running unauthorised schools or illegal schools.

“Our search is to get the law that can criminalise all illegal schools so that no deaths occur at any illegal schools,” said Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Obed Bapela.

South African authorities have intensified a crackdown on illegal initiation schools.

In the crackdown, 1,100 initiates have been rescued from illegal initiation schools in the Eastern Cape Province alone since the start of the initiation season this year, according to Bapela.