Child abuse and FGM fears over Customary Initiation Bill

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Concerns about child abuse and female genital mutilation have been flagged by the Western Cape as some of the hurdles that the Customary Initiation Bill needs to clear before it can become law, according to a senior legal adviser in the Department of the Premier. A Cape Argus report says the issues came to the fore during a virtual public hearing on the Bill by the Standing Committee on Community Safety, Cultural Affairs & Sport.

Asked by committee member Gillion Bosman about what parts of the Children’s Act needed to be aligned with the Bill, legal adviser Clara Williams said the part of the Act that dealt with abuse was an example. “The Act obliges anybody to report if there’s been abuse of a child, but this Bill isn’t really clear on that aspect. It has two clauses dealing with reporting of abuse, but one of those clauses specifically states that there must be evidence of abuse and not just the possibility,” said Williams.

She said concerns which were not addressed in the Bill included the issue of single-use surgical instruments, remoteness and inaccessibility of initiation school locations being an obstacle for emergency services and lack of proper provision for mentally handicapped initiates.

 

The committee has heard that traditional leaders in communities that practise initiations want to be part of the decision-making when the Bill is passed, according to a Cape Times report. Council of Nguni People chair, Chief Lungelo Nokwaza, said a clause should be added to the Bill allowing for leaders in communities that practise initiations to be part of the decision-making on a provincial level.

“Not including members of the community would mean that they are excluded, and experience and expertise would be lost if we do not participate in the relevant structures. We are not opposed to there being only representation from a national structure, but they will not understand the dynamics of the province as well, and they may not understand that initiations in the Western Cape are successful, with no traumatic experiences leading up to deaths.”

 

Full Cape Argus report (subscription needed)

 

Full Cape Times report (subscription needed)

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