Acceptance through circumcision
“It is only fair for my children to go through it, because I went through it as well, if they don’t, then I am proud to say that I will disown any of them.” Says Lukanyiso Matshoba who is a father of two young boys. The question is that is this process a way of trying to be accepted? As most of Xhosa community tend to condescend those boys who have refused to go through the initiation.
“Growing up in the Xhosa culture has been a challenged” said Sihle Takwaza who went through the Xhosa initiation earlier last year, where he had to prove his masculinity through the process called circumcision. For him he did it because he wanted to be spoken to and referred to as a man in his community mostly acceptance was the main point, but for some safety is first on the list, “I rather be careful then regret my decision after ward” says Mathebo a staff member at the River of Life Church, in Grahamstown who refused to go through the traditional route, as he says he does not need to be accepted by people who judges based on their understanding and not his.
“I need to be accepted in my culture, and respected.” Says Sonwabiso Mahla a first year BSc student at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. He carries on and says he can only be accepted and respected by taking the traditional route. However being a Xhosa boy becomes difficult when you find yourself trying to be accepted and respected in the Xhosa community due to safety reasons. As it connotes that one does not have the ‘guts’ to be seen as a man.
“Traditional circumcision is highly dangerous, because of the tools used in the process of traditional circumcision.” Says Dr Fourie who is a surgeon at the Hope Care Centre in Pietermaritzburg. One can end up dead or with serious injuries on one’s genital he added. Most Xhosa boys take this opportunity to prove their toughness through the survival of circumcision; however some see this as being a health issue. “Recent press reports from the Eastern Cape claim an annual death rate of more than 70 per year. The death toll for the 2011 winter initiation period stood at 40 at the time of writing. These statistics not only point to the fact that little has changed, but suggest that the situation may in fact be deteriorating” says the South Africa Medical Journal. But the pressure comes in in the process of proving yourself. Surviving this cut according to the Xhosa culture automatically qualifies one as being a man. Those who do not survive are still considered as boys. “As dangerous as it is you have to suck it up” Said Sonwabiso Damana. Going to hospital to do the deed does not qualify one as being a man; however, one loses respect if you are part of the Xhosa culture and in most cases the person ends up being disowned. The difference between practicing it at hospital and going through the initiation route seems to be clear, however, for some (Xhosa) it is not a choice. It either you agree to earn respect through circumcision which seems to be the most important part of the initiation or nothing at all. Traditional initiations determine one’s status in different cultures. However, for Xhosas it is a must go through situation. “Going through the initiation sets a standard of respect, so for Xhosas it is a must.” Says Abongile Tanga. Should health be our number one priority or should we rely on the sacrosanctity of culture to raise a future generation.