Circumcision: an obsolete African spiritual ritual

Publié le par hort

Egypt forbids female circumcision 
By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC Arab Affairs Analyst

Egypt has announced that it is imposing a complete ban on female circumcision, also known as genital mutilation. The announcement follows a public outcry after a young girl died during the operation. A ban was introduced nearly 10 years ago but the practice continued to be allowed in exceptional circumstances. A health ministry spokesman said no member of the medical profession would be allowed to perform the operation in public or private establishments. Those who broke the law would be punished, the spokesman said. 

Psychological violence 
The new ban cancels out a provision that allowed the operation to be performed by qualified doctors in exceptional cases only. But the death of a 12-year-old girl in Upper Egypt a few days ago triggered an angry barrage of appeals from human rights groups to both the government and the medical profession to act swiftly and stamp out the practice. The doctor who carried out the operation has been arrested. Egypt's first lady, Susanne Mubarak, has spoken out strongly against female circumcision, saying that it is a flagrant example of continued physical and psychological violence against children which must stop. The country's top religious authorities also expressed unequivocal support for the ban. The Grand Mufti and the head of the Coptic Church said female circumcision had no basis either in the Koran or in the Bible. 
Recent studies have shown that some 90% of Egyptian women have been circumcised. The practice is common among Muslim as well as Christian families in Egypt and other African countries, but is rare in the Arab world. It is believed to be part of an ancient Egyptian rite of passage and is more common in rural areas. Conservative families believe that circumcision is a way of protecting the girls' chastity. 
Initiation deaths continue to rise

Johannesburg, South Africa
06 July 2007 04:29

Two youths were killed in Limpopo on Friday after they were circumcised -- bringing the number of circumcision deaths to at least 17 in four provinces in the last five weeks.

At least 12 deaths were reported in the Eastern Cape, three in Limpopo and one each in Gauteng and North West since the winter "circumcision season" started. The Limpopo government's head of the provincial task team on initiation, Chief Vusani Netshimbepfe, said the youths died at Mapila village near Mokopane and at Bolobedo outside Tzaneen. Netshimbepfe said another youth died in Mbahe village outside Thohoyandou on Thursday. "On behalf of government, we send our condolences to the families of the victims."

He said the provincial government had conducted workshops to registered traditional surgeons, teaching them how to conduct circumcisions.  "All traditional surgeons are trained before the [initiation] school comes to being."  The provincial government had sent its officials to investigate the deaths. In the Eastern Cape, 12 initiates had died and more than 20 illegal traditional surgeons arrested in the last five weeks.

The province's health department spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo, said nearly 100 youths had been hospitalised and 350 rescued from "fly-by-night schools" in the province. "The problem is that there are these bogus traditional surgeons who continue to break the law." He said the public and some of the affected youths were also to blame for some of the incidents. "For instance, some boys circumcise themselves ...some ask anyone who claims to be a traditional surgeon to circumcise them," he said.Other under-age boys lied about their age and told surgeons they were 18.

"Some parents are not cooperating with the department. We appealed to them to alert us of these [illegal initiation] schools. But in some cases they only call us when the situation is critical and at [that] stage there is nothing that doctors can do to save the initiates."  A number of youths had had their genitals amputated due to circumcision complications. "Some had parts of their penises cut-off during circumcision."

The department had allocated R4-million and 40 4X4 vehicles, and deployed 400 officials to monitor the situation. In Gauteng, a 15-year-old boy died at an initiation school between De Deur and Orange Farm last month. He was found dead by fellow circumcision initiates at a mountain. The boy was among nine others who were circumcised by an illegal surgeon. A 24-year-old man died from circumcision complications at a North West hospital this week. His death led to the closure of two initiation schools in Verdwaal and Bodibe villages, near Lichtenburg in the North West after police found that the schools were not registered. Inspector Carina Fourie said 19 other initiates from the schools were also taken to hospital for medical attention to their penises. The two men who ran the initiation schools were arrested and fined R300 for contravening the Circumcision Act.

Circumcision -- where the foreskin of the penis is removed -- is regarded across many cultures globally as an important rite of passage. The procedure itself is conducted in many ways ranging from a ceremony in the bush to an elective surgical procedure in a medical facility.

Straight talk from Hort

One of the reasons for starting this blog was to try to inform and educate people of African descent in those areas where we lack correct  information, in the hope  that a larger number of informed people in a hostile world would help to advance the collective interests of our group.  Circumcision is certainly one of those areas. Most of us in the diaspora get our information about circumcision from the western media which confuses rather than enlightens us, so I would like to shed some light on the origins of this African practice. 

We must conclude that circumcision must have been practiced for thousands of years in Africa since it was also common among the ancient Egyptians. In fact, this ritual which has been adopted, by Jews, Arabs and other groups is intricately tied to African spiritual beliefs. Our ancestors practiced circumcision because there was a deep spiritual belief in Africa that the creator is unique, and is thus both male and female at the same time.  As a result, this ritual was practiced "to affirm the sex of the individual, because it is believed that  the clitoris represents a male element in a female, and the prepuce of the penis represents femininity in a  boy.  Hence, the girls are excised and the boys  circumcised in order to establish their sex in  society." In other words, our ancestors believed that as each individual was made in the creator's image they were born both male and female (hermaphrodite), and it was circumcision/excision that actually made a person wholly male or wholly female. I have been told that even today in modern Africa, an uncircumcised man is still considered a child.  Now that we understand the motivation behind the ritual we can see that  circumcision/excision is not just a nonsensical practice, but rather a logical attempt to explain our creation. However, in a modern society, the time has come to discontinue this archaic practice since we now have less dangerous ways of determining the maturity and the gender of each individual. To truly end this practice we must raise the educational level of our people in Africa since circumcision and excision are simply spiritual beliefs which are based on superstition.

Publié dans contemporary africa

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