Debate Rages Over Circumcision Bill

News  East Cape News (Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa). Tuesday, 4 September 2001.

Mkokeli Bisho

Although people supported the Traditional Circumcision bill, serious concerns have been raised at public hearings which end today, about English terminology and the participation of women in the rite.

Traditional Affairs Standing Committee Chairperson Chief Zwelodumo Mtirara said today (subs: tues) his committee is listening to hot debates in the community.

He said men did not want women to participate in the custom, while women were saying they had parental rights to be involved.

A number of communities said they wanted Xhosa names to be used for key figures in the process, such as traditional nurses, traditional surgeons, assegai and huts.

The bill calls for the appointment by the Health MEC of a medical officer to oversee circumcisions.

Although this idea did not go down well among the communities, they would only accept the prescence of a medical officer if he was a black man only.

Communities were calling for Iingcibi (traditional surgeons) and amakhankatha (traditional nurses) to be trained to deal with wounds. They wanted the custom perfomed in the manner it was in the olden days where initiates did not eat delicious meals and did not drink liquids for the first eight days prevent the wounds from getting wet.

They wanted the circumsicion instrument to be a sterilised assegai and not a pair of doctor's scissors.

Others suggested that a prospective initiate bring his own assegai. Parents agreed that before a boy was circumsiced, a parent or gurdian had to give consent and that a traditional authority should be informed prior to the rite.

It was suggested that amakhankatha and iingcibi should be men above 40 and should be non-drinkers.

Before Ingcibi could perform the execise, he should not have sexual intercourse and not drink for at least 24 hours.

Mtirara said the public welcomed the bill but called for it to be changed here and there.

The committee is expected to meet shortly after hearings end today (subs: wed) and start compiling a report for a joint standing committee on Health and Traditional Affairs.

The report will be passed to the House of Traditional Affairs for scrutiny and then tabled before the legislature for the debate and to be passed as an Act, said Mtirara.

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