The truth about circumcision schools
Parent24 asks a reader why kids choose ritual circumcision despite knowing the risks.
By Scott Dunlop
Recent reports on the current circumcision season have confirmed at least 20 deaths as a result of botched circumcisions performed on boys between the ages of 15 and 25. While this are tragic, especially since as many as 80 deaths occur annually, there are reasons that boys are willing to attend circumcision schools. Parent24 spoke to Siyabulela, who has been through such a school- he shares some insights into this rite of passage.
1. Why does circumcision take place?
The tradition dates way back. It's a passage into manhood. Boys are taught how to be men and leaders at home and communities. The elders obviously preferred to have this done with the boys hidden from society for a couple of weeks.
2. Why do practitioners ignore the call to perform symbolic circumcisions, leaving the actual procedure to medical professionals in sterile environments?
There is a stigma attached to having the process done in the hospital. Hospitals are "western facilities" and are seen as being opposed to tradition. This is after all a traditional practice- one that can occur successfully using traditional healing (as I can testify).
3. Are parents really involved in the process of giving consent to initiators, or do they hand their kids over without knowing the details?
Parents are involved and they decide when their kids are ready to go. They get trusted men to perform circumcisions. The problem starts when the boys feel pressurised, sometimes defying their parents by running and having it done "illegally". This is what causes most deaths. You have unscrupulous men masquerading as traditional surgeons, for money.
4. Is there a conflict between cultural/traditional knowledge and contemporary laws and structures, or can traditional ways cohabit with modern practices?
There is a huge conflict. Those that go to hospitals, for example, are ostracised by society where I am from. As you grow up, you know that is not a route you should take; otherwise you will be taunted for the rest of your life.
5. Why do hundreds of boys and young men submit to this every year knowing they could be mutilated (or even die)?
No one wants to be a boy forever. The deaths are a tip of the iceberg compared to the glory of coming back. Think about going to war: people sign up, regardless of the dangers. The glory is much more worth it.
6. Whose responsibility is it to stop circumcision-related deaths?
The government and communities are responsible. There needs to be a way of regulating and making sure the right people deal with the boys.
7. Are there positive aspects to the process which are ignored because of the injuries?
The process, if done correctly, produces stellar family heads and community leaders. It sets men apart from boys, so to speak, and instils respect.
Do you think boys should still go through circumcision schools as a rite of passage?
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
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