Study reveals male circumcision abuse

Johannesburg - Circumcision is supposed to be a rite of passage, but a new study by World Vision has confirmed the fears of many that some boys are subjected to abusive and bullying practices.

The charity's study, In the Name of Culture: Forced Initiation in Orange Farm South Africa, which was carried out in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, found that boys who do not go, or do not complete initiation, are picked on and excluded.

"For example, fellow students will take away their chairs and won’t allow them to use the school bathrooms unless they pay a fee," World Vision said a statement.

Paula Barnard, national director of World Vision SA, said society is not acting cohesively or fast enough to deal with illegal initiation schools.

''These boys get bullied and intimidated on a daily basis. Furthermore, those that have been circumcised at medical institutions are still stigmatised and not regarded as men,” Barnard said.

Researchers found that during initiation season parents hand over blankets, food and home-made beer "in the name of culture" and are charged between R1 000 to R4 500 a child.

They do not know where the boys are taken.

Some families are using the schools as a means of punishing boys, the study found. Children at illegal initiation schools are not fed properly, and are denied water, causing dehydration.

“The children also indicated that while in the mountains they are harassed and heavily assaulted with sjamboks. One of the children showed marks on his back demonstrating how he was constantly assaulted,” said the report.

The study found that the intimidation continues even if they have been rescued from illegal schools as it affected their school work, and often led to them dropping out.

''As a result of the forced initiation practices, Orange Farm's parents have come together to establish a forum to deal with abduction and subsequent abuse of their children,'' said Ernest Fraser, advocacy team leader at World Vision SA.

“Our concern, however, is this forum might be short-lived. Already people with hidden agendas have suggested traditionally cleansing the boys, once they’ve escaped or [been] rescued from the mountains, instead of providing them with proper medical care,” Fraser said.

South Africa needed to fast-track the formulation of laws that deal with illegal initiation schools as these schools leave the children vulnerable and threatened, said Fraser.

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