CRL Rights Commission releases initiation deaths report

2017-11-21 21:37
(File, City Press)

(File, City Press)

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Johannesburg – The Commission for the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission) on Tuesday released its report into deaths and injuries at initiation schools in South Africa.

Commission chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said the investigation began after deaths, beatings, assaults and health risks increased at initiation schools.

Hearings were conducted in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Limpopo, as well as other provinces where initiations were carried out. 

READVeil of secrecy around initiation schools to blame for deaths - NPA

She said initiation schools had been commercialised and that there were people recruiting and sometimes abducting young men.

"The value of circumcision is lost when the circumcision process is commercialised. The whole thing is a process and, when a child is abducted, sacredness is lost".

She also commented on botched surgeries, penile amputations and injuries at illegal initiation schools.

"The secrecy element of the process is lost when a mortuary van and the police are involved. Culture collapses and it becomes a crime because there is no secret when you have to tell the investigating officer the whole story that led to the death".

READYour penis 'fell down', doctor to botched circumcision victim

Discussing the commission’s findings, Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said one of the major causes of penile amputation was the incompetent performance of circumcision rituals at initiation schools.

Some initiates suffered pneumonia, meningitis, dehydration and hunger during the process.

The commission also found that the level of physical abuse of initiates was poorly investigated because the police did not want to get involved in cultural affairs.

"Some cases are dismissed or struck off the roll because of poor evidence or a lack of witnesses."

Food parcels

Since the investigations began, there has been a drop in the death of initiates and, in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, where traditional leaders have been paying attention to the processes, there were far fewer deaths or incidences, she said.

The commission has been talking to the department of social development to encourage it to provide food parcels to initiates because some of them were on social grants.

The commission recommended that communities set up traditional initiation leadership structures to oversee initiation schools.

Traditional surgeons, nurses and principals needed to be trained, registered and accredited.

READ'Our kids will never be the same' - parents on circumcision fiasco

Legislation does not allow children under the age of 16 to participate in initiation but, in Limpopo, children from the age of 12 can participate.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said age was important because it meant that they were violating legislation.

"Provinces need to be allowed to tweak the age limit so that communities can do what they want with their children,” she added.

Medical and psycho-social support need to be provided in the case of a botched circumcision, penile amputation and the death of an initiate.

"Penile amputees are severely traumatised. Initiates feel less of a man where there has been amputation. The department of health should provide penile transplants because it costs R50 000 in the private sector.

Penile transplants

"We will be talking to the department because the issue cannot be privatised. The government needs to entertain this and research must be funded so that initiates can have hope while waiting for a donor so that there are no suicides".

Following criminal activities, Mkhwanzai-Xaluva also announced the suspension of all initiation-related activities in Gauteng until December 2018.

Director of Medical Male Circumcision, Collen Bonnecwe, announced that the department was to perform penile transplants in the Eastern Cape in 2018.

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