New law to end circumcision’s choppy ride

2011-07-30 18:36

More than 230 young men have died in botched circumcisions in the Eastern Cape in the past four years, new data has revealed.

In addition, more than 150 young men have had to have their penises amputated since 2006.

In light of these shocking figures, a new circumcision law will be passed in the next year to regulate the ritual, and stop botched circumcisions and initiate deaths.

According to the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department, a circumcision bill will be developed by next year.

The department will introduce a circumcision policy document by September this year to regulate the practice across
the country.

These shocking numbers come from provincial health department statistics and form part of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities report.

The commission has made far-reaching recommendations to government to regulate circumcision and to stop circumcision-related deaths.

In a report based on public hearings the commission held last year, some of the proposals and recommendations include:

»?School-going initiates to have a two-month winter holiday between May and
July;

»?The setting up of a special police unit to track bogus traditional surgeons and illegal initiation schools;

»?Government to “provide” for initiates from poor homes;

»?Mobile clinics to stop initiates ending up in hospital wards where they are cared for by women, and uncircumcised nurses and doctors;

»?Municipalities to provide infrastructure to initiation schools, such as land and clean water; and

»?Home affairs to check whether ID documents and birth certificates have been fraudulently manipulated.

Chief executive Pheagane Moreroa says the commission demands government departments implement its recommendations.

“We’ll be monitoring it. One of our mandates is to monitor implementation,” he says.

Moreroa adds that the commission is engaging the identified government departments individually.

“We can’t wait longer than we already have. While there are delays, boys die daily,” he says.

The commission hopes to have national legislation within two years, according to Moreroa.

Moreroa says there is nothing to stop government departments from implementing the recom-mendations before national legislation is passed.

He says there has been a dramatic decrease in initiate deaths this year.

In the past month, 25 initiates died in the Eastern Cape while the number was more than 40 in the same period last year.

The commission says incompetent performance of the circumcision ritual at initiation schools is the major cause of amputations and deaths.

Penis amputations are among the risks young men take when undergoing the ritual.

“Circumcision requires experienced people to perform it,” reads the commission’s report.

Every year, the Eastern Cape provincial health department deals with cases of pneumonia, meningitis, gangrene and dehydration resulting from the ritual.

Gangrene is the main cause of penis amputations.

A doctor in one of the Eastern Cape hospitals hardest hit by botched circumcision admissions warns that legislation may not be effective if parents are not actively involved in the ritual.

“Parents can’t stop being parents at such a crucial time in their son’s life,” says the doctor, who asked not to be identified.

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