Support safe initiation: Contralesa

File: Contralesa says it's aware of NGOs that conduct medical male circumcision in rural areas, especially in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga, without following proper cultural procedures.

PRETORIA - Government should support safe traditional initiation instead of allowing non-governmental organisations to compete with traditional practitioners, the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA said on Friday.

"These actions are not only undermining our culture but are undoing the good work to curb traditional initiation related deaths," Contralesa president Setlamorago Thobejane told reporters in Pretoria.

He said his organisation was aware of NGOs that conducted medical male circumcision in rural areas, especially in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga, without following proper cultural procedures.

"We appeal to government to not allow medical male circumcision to create instability in our practice. We are not in competition regarding the practising of our culture," Thobejane said.

Medical male circumcision is a medical alternative to the traditional practice of circumcision at initiation schools.

Thobejane said initiation had become open to abuse by people seeing it as an opportunity to make money.

"People charge almost R3000 an initiate, and some of these unscrupulous people are graduates from initiation schools who are unemployed and see an opportunity to make money," Thobejane said.

"These issues are crippling and are undermining the culture that we are so proud of."

The organisation launched its plan for dealing with initiations this winter. It was a partnership between Contralesa, the health department, the SA Medical Association, and Codefsa, a non-governmental organisation promoting safe traditional initiation, Thobejane said.

"As a measure of intensifying the campaign, Contralesa will mobilise traditional leaders to take full control of initiations under the area of their jurisdiction," Thobejane said.

The organisation would develop a database of professional medical doctors and traditional initiation nurses to monitor initiates.

"Working with our partners, we will ensure that no prospective initiates will go to the camp without a thorough medical screening," Thobejane said.

Initiation has been marred by illegal schools and botched circumcisions resulting in deaths of initiates over the years. The organisation would conduct road shows before the start of initiation sessions.

"In the same vein, we will also be educating traditional leaders about relevant legislation governing or related to the practice, including contravening such laws in particular," he said.

The first group of Contralesa leaders would visit all provinces from next week.


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