The culture commission has called for national legislation to regulate initiation schools, and in so doing reduce the risk to young men's lives.
There needs to be national legislation on initiation schools, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities said on Tuesday.
“There are great disparities in legislation,” said the commission’s senior manager in research, Matthew Gopane in Johannesburg.
“Provinces such as the North West, Western Cape and Mpumalanga still don’t have legislation.”
The commission had put together a report with the South African Human Rights Commission and the National House of Traditional Leaders on initiation schools in South Africa. The group wanted to ensure that practices in initiation schools were consistent with the Constitution.
Data for the report was collected from public hearings and field research in each province.
Too cruel for school
Gopane said the problems emanating from initiation schools were botched circumcisions, penis amputations, the deaths of young boys and illegal schools. The biggest problem was in the Eastern Cape, he said.
He said these illegal schools were diminishing the appreciation of the cultural value of male initiation.
“There is a negative perception of the practice.
“Initiation has not had a pleasant history. Apartheid forced it to exist in secrecy,” Gopane said.
By and large, only injurious and fatal incidents were reported in the media, which added to the poor perception of the practice by the general public.
He said a standard national legislative framework had to be developed, and a database of qualified practitioners ought to be drawn up, administered by recognised traditional leaders.
Traditional leaders were the custodians of the practice of initiation and it was incumbent upon them to be directly involved in the starting up of initiation schools, where young boys could be trained and mentored, without fear of putting their lives in mortal danger, to become men of dignity in their families and in their community.
“It’s a time old tradition, a rite of passage,” Gopane said.—Sapa