News / Africa

Botched Circumcisions Kill 30 South African Boys

Xhosa boys covered with a blankets and smeared with chalky mud sit in a field as others undergo a traditional male circumcision ceremony into manhood near the home of former South African president Nelson Mandela in Qunu, South Africa, June 30, 2013.
Xhosa boys covered with a blankets and smeared with chalky mud sit in a field as others undergo a traditional male circumcision ceremony into manhood near the home of former South African president Nelson Mandela in Qunu, South Africa, June 30, 2013.
Anita Powell
South Africa’s ruling party has said enough is enough after 30 boys died over the weekend because of botched ritual circumcisions.  The latest wave of deaths has doubled this year’s toll, making 2013 one of the deadliest years on record.

South Africa's ruling ANC party says it is “distressed” by reports of the deaths of some 30 boys and the hospitalization of 300 more from ritual circumcisions in rural Eastern Cape province.

To that end, the ANC is calling for modernization of this ancient, secret ritual.  Each year, tens of thousands of boys leave their homes for the ritual that is said to include physical challenges, deprivation and isolation.

Most boys go through the ritual as teenagers; officials have said 30,000 boys have signed up this year.

ANC spokesman Keith Khoza says the men who perform the circumcisions need to have medical training and be licensed, at the very least.

“We think that the recent deaths are quite alarming, they are unacceptable.  And we believe they can be mitigated with proper medical support in these initiatives.  But also the competency of the people that are conducting this, the need to undergo some medical training," said Khoza.

Officials have said many of the circumcision-related deaths are caused by blood loss and infection after circumcision.  Those surgeries are normally performed by traditional leaders, not doctors.

Other initiates have been found to have died of exhaustion and hypothermia after their young bodies were pushed to the limit.

But Khoza says the ANC doesn’t want to ban the ritual outright - nor, he says, can they.

“It’s going to be quite difficult, owing to the fact that the majority of our people in traditional areas, they practice this as a ritual which has a deep meaning for them as for them as to the standing of individuals in society.  It’s difficult, you’ll meet with resistance if you were to try and do that," he said.

Concern is growing as the death toll mounts.  In May, another 30 boys died in the rural provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga during their manhood initiation ceremonies.  That prompted the nation’s parliament to hold a debate on the issue.  But that debate resulted in no real decisions.

Critics say they were disappointed that the legislators did not order the shutdown of initiation schools.   

Spokesman Sizwe Pamla of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union is one of those critics.  He says the government has failed those boys, and called for officials to prosecute traditional leaders for the deaths of the children.

“We really don’t think that the government has done enough.  We actually think that it’s about time that we take strong actions against these cultures, especially the custodians, which happens to be the traditional leadership.  We think the traditional leadership needs to be accountable.  If they cannot take care, or be responsible, for the lives of the young ones who undergo this initiation, then we have to look at the possibility of discontinuing this culture," said Pamla.

But there may be an upcoming sea change.  Health Minister Aaron Mostoaledi, who supports circumcision as an AIDS-prevention measure, says some of the circumcisions are being performed illegally and need to be reined in.

He told a local newspaper on Monday: “It has turned into something criminal and no longer has anything to do with culture.  Young lives are being destroyed.”

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Claire Casey from: Sheffield
July 19, 2013 5:33 PM
Something needs to be done about this quickly. How distressing to see a young man on the news saying he has to have his penis removed as a result of this botched exercise. It's terrible. It's ruining lives. What can we do to help?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More