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

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs