Editorial: Too many young men are dying

Judging by the number of deaths – approaching 50 this year – and hospitalisations, it is clear that the cultural practice of initiation in the Eastern Cape is under severe threat from its commodification, which has resulted in the proliferation of illegal schools. At risk are not just lives, or cultural practices, but potentially important public health gains.

Initiation is about preparing boys to face the harsh world and raise their own families.

And now it has been shown that the circumcision practiced at these schools could be a huge help in fighting the HIV scourge facing South Africa.

Recent international studies have shown circumcision can reduce the risk of a man being infected by a female partner by up to 70%. Therefore, if practised properly, the benefits for individuals and the country are immense.

Methods of regulation
Traditionally, the wielding of the blade is an inherited family trade, but the old methods of regulation and the fine system, as imposed by traditional leaders on unregistered schools, are clearly failing to deter charlatans out to make a quick buck from commercialised initiation schools.

It makes little sense to call for the abandonment of the tradition or the complete replacement of traditional surgeons by medical practitioners. The culture is still being practised successfully in many parts of the Eastern Cape.

But the health department and institutions of traditional leadership need to work together to ensure that initiates are not endangered, and that circumcision is performed in a way that confers its health benefits on initiates.

And both sides need to be held responsible for stopping the needless deaths and mutilation of so many young men.

The Zuma administration purports to understand the value of traditional practices in a modern world. This would be a good place to show it.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

‘Frustrated’ police resort to force

Regulation uncertainty leaves slap-happy police and soldiers to decide when people should or shouldn’t be allowed on the streets

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders