"Senseless tradition": Parent’s share their thoughts on hospital circumcision vs traditional initiation


Parents appear to be losing faith in initiation schools over concerns of hygiene, safety and cost, with many parents opting for professional medical circumcision.

The commercialisation of this ritual is another prompt for parents to go the medical route.

Also read: Deadly initiations: Commission suspends schools for a year in wake of 23 deaths

“I understand that initiation schools are part of our culture, but they have become highly commercialised. It is expensive to take your child there. Last year you had to pay at least R1 500, which becomes a huge problem when you are not working," one parent, Sammy Rampedi, explained to the press recently.

"I’m unemployed, so where would I get the money? I took my son and nephew to a doctor for free for the same thing that would have cost R3 000.”

“Another thing is hygiene and health. The initiation school environment is not healthy, and they don’t take care of the children like doctors do.”

In a joint operation between the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and NGO, the Ikamva Lesizwe Institute, over 100 boys were recently rescued from illegal initiation schools in and around Bizana in the Eastern Cape. 

Department spokesperson Mamkeli Ngam told News24 that the department was concerned that the practice was being "commercialised".

"We are seeing the mushrooming of these illegal initiation schools, where individuals are inviting people to send their boys at an exorbitant fee," he said. 

 Also read: To snip or not to snip? Our readers respond to the circumcision debate

As a Xhosa mom of a boy child myself, this is a pertinent topic, but when it comes up I always bypass it with a "It will be his choice to make."

Although I know that if he chooses not to go to the mountain, he will face disapproval from his peers and men in general, I hope he will be mature enough to understand the consequences of whatever decision he makes.

I approached another Xhosa mom to find out what she thinks about sending boys to a hospital to get circumcised. "As a modern mom [who] lives in the city, yes, I would send my kids to a hospital," Kwanele Mbobo told me.

"There's absolutely no reason why circumcision can't be done at birth in hospital. Initiation school is unnecessary and poses an unnecessary risk to those who attend."

On the stigma associated with hospital circumcisions, Mbobo, a mommy blogger at Xhosa Mom Unplugged, says there's the idea that men who are circumcised in hospital are "not man enough," and "don't deserve any kind of respect from the community at large. However this can't be further from the truth," she insists.

"We can't subject our children to an environment that not only poses so many health concerns, but also is questionable in what it teaches these young men there, as some come back abusive, some unruly and others traumatised from things that happened at 'the mountain'."

"So whatever stigma there is in the rural communities about boys who are circumcised in hospital," she says, "it's up to the younger generation of moms to put an end to this senseless tradition."

What are your thoughts on the issue? Share your story with us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

I also spoke to Vusi, a Zulu dad of a Xhosa/Zulu son, who shared his opinion. As far as circumcision goes, he says it's important to get it done because it reduces the risk of contracting infectious diseases like HIV or cancer.

He feels strongly that the procedure must be done at the hospital. "Because now people have lost their way of doing culture. Some cultures like mine don't do it, but due to health risks with a lot of STIs, I think it's a must for everyone to do it, but at the hospital."

When asked if he would support his son if he chose to be circumcised in the mountain instead he said, "Yes, I wouldn't mind him going to the mountain, because he belongs to both cultures. He has a right to do whatever he wants to do from both cultures. He is an individual, he can choose to embrace whatever he wants, and I will support him."

Chat back:

How do you feel about this? Share your story with us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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