Graphic circumcision horrors website is allowed to publish

2014-02-02 10:00

Male genital mutilation pics have great educative value, says FPB.

A Dutch doctor has won the first round of a battle to keep publishing highly graphic medical photos of traditional circumcision ceremonies that have resulted in “male genital mutilation”.

Last Friday, the Film and Publication Board (FPB) ruled that it could not shut down Dr Dingeman Rijken’s website, because it was clear that the website was “a bona fide, scientific publication with great educative value”.

The FPB has only specified that the website needs to carry a warning which stipulates that its age restriction is 13.

The website, ulwaluko.co.za, shows over 155 extremely graphic photographs taken of severely wounded, infected, deformed, amputated and gangrenous penises of initiates from the Eastern Cape.

The Community Development Foundation of SA (Codefsa) lodged a complaint about the website for, among other things, portraying “pornographic pictures” and “sexually explicit pictures”, and also accused Rijken of breaking patient-doctor confidentiality.

Nkululeko Nxesi, executive director of Codefsa, says the website is insulting and explicit, and that Codefsa will appeal against the ruling.

Nxesi says that the website has caused those running initiation schools to view custodians with suspicion.

But in an interview with City Press on Friday, Rijken pointed out that the website stated that “informed consent has been obtained for each clinical photograph shown”.

Rijken said that he decided to go public with these images after all of his pleas fell on deaf ears.

“Traditional leaders say Dr Rijken shouldn’t have spoken out. Well, I tried to speak with them and they wouldn’t listen,” he said.

Rijken, a Dutch doctor who specialises in tropical medicine, began working at the Holy Cross Hospital outside Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape in March 2012.

After being shocked at the number of initiates who were coming into the hospital, he says on the website he “visited initiation schools, attended numerous meetings with various stakeholders, did awareness campaigns in communities and schools, organised training, wrote a training manual, established community forums in each location around my hospital”.

“Despite all our efforts, the winter season of 2013 was catastrophic. A total of 68 initiates were admitted in my wards, eight of them being ‘amputees’.

“I felt I had no other choice than to lift the veil of secrecy and speak to the media,” he writes.

Describing the hours he spent cleaning wounds, inserting urinary catheters and battling to explain to 17-year-olds that they had lost their penises, Rijken says “you have nothing to offer them”.

He says that most people don’t bother to read the full website, which includes sections explaining problems and possible solutions to the problems experienced.

“I still value the ritual very much. The ritual has got massive potential in education and righting societal wrongs.

“The initiation programme should be viewed as a wonderful opportunity to disseminate specific messages at this crucial point in the life of an adolescent boy,” he said.

Rijken has argued for a proper, centralised initiation programme emphasising safe circumcision.

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