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By Kekeletso Nakeli

Columnist


The urgent need to reform dangerous cultural practices

Deaths in initiation ceremonies highlight the need for change. Integrating Western medicine can save lives.


At the risk of being unkind to our culture and traditions, the deaths of initiates during circumcision period necessitate that safety and the preservation of life should come before the very act of culture.

There must be a re-examination of where we are, who has become the practitioners and where do we accede to Western medicine to save lives. The oversight needed to keep deaths at bay is lacklustre, almost as if government is playing to a tune of not offending the culturally rooted.

While the custom is a right of passage for young men, death cannot be the reward.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities estimates that about 700 initiates have died in the Eastern Cape in the last decade.

It is common knowledge that the bulk of these deaths are as a result of illegal initiation schools.

ALSO READ: Authorities ‘baffled’ by Limpopo boy’s death after being withdrawn from initiation school

When we say the practice, in response to the rise in illegal and unrecognised schools, should be administered differently – in collaboration with registered health care professionals – the “real Africans” are quick to call into question our love for our history.

We are accused of not knowing who we are and trying to trade our roots for the Western way of thinking. When did staying alive and keeping our children alive become a topic of discussion where we are perceived to be brainwashed and “the lost generation”.

This being said, our children keep their pulse and live to see another day…

While all things must evolve so, too, must this practice. How we can continue to bury our children over a surgical procedure that can be performed within an hour?

Are our cultural practitioners willing to sit at the round tables and discuss the core issues?

ALSO READ: North West to launch medical male circumcision drive during school holidays

Have these very practitioners been bold enough to express their challenges and struggles? What are they facing that may lead to these deaths?

Can the inability to communicate be the main reason why parents stand at gravesides and weep as they lower coffins that carry the hopes and dreams that were borne in their children?

When a decision is taken to take a child to a place where such a sensitive body part remains a reason for them being there, do parents send their children there based on hearsay?

Is it based on cost or is it based on registration, qualification, experiences and testimonials?

Are we sending our children to these mountains out of fear of cultural exclusion or because we have a belief in the process?

ALSO READ: Man dies in Limpopo initiation feud; seven suspects arrested

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