Radical change needed to stop initiation deaths – Rijken

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As another initiation season looms, Greg Nicolson writes in the [s]Daily Maverick[/s] that a new website is trying to improve education around the topic. He says the [b]Ulwako[/b] site has been criticised for flouting tradition with its graphic pictures of injured g enitals. But according to Dutch doctor [b]Dingeman Rijken[/b], who set up the webpage, ‘radical change is needed.’ Nicolson points out that although the pictures are confronting, they hardly compare to the shocking numbers of young men who die or get their penises amputated every year due to unsafe circumcision practices in some initiation schools. To confront their grievances with the website, traditional leaders will first have to confront the problems that have gone on for far too long, he says.

The chilling images have raised the ire of cultural commentators. According to an [s]IoL[/s] report, [b]Nkululeko Nxesi[/b] from the local [b]Community Development Foundation of South Africa (Codefsa)[/b] has called for the website to be shut down. He said that Rijken ‘should respect the cultural principles and processes of this nation.’ ‘We condemn the exposure of this ritual to people who do not (follow) it. Women should not see what happens at initiations,’ traditional chief [b]Patekile Holomisa[/b], a former leader of the [b]Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa[/b] is quoted as saying. Official figures show, however, that by mid-2013, more than 50 boys and young men had died from infection, exhaustion and dehydration during the weeks-long initiation ceremony in the bush, while over 300 were taken to hospital.

Initiates who needed medical attention during the traditional circumcision season were often stigmatised by their communities, reports [s]The Times[/s]. This is according to the [b]Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga Departments of Health[/b] that recently reported back to parliament on the 2013 circumcision deaths. In the Eastern Cape, the biggest loss of life was caused by infected p enises, leading to septicaemia. But Rijken said traditional leaders were not interested in working with doctors. After meetings with them, chiefs spread messages that medical circumcision was bad.
Uwaluko site
Full Daily Maverick report
Full IoL report
Full report in The Times

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