Special courts for circumcision offences

News  South African Broadcasting Corporation. Monday, 24 January 2005.

The Eastern Cape health department is considering a multi-pronged approach to deal with botched circumcisions, including special courts and arranging psychological treatment.

We will liaise with all the state law enforcement agencies in a bid to have special courts established to deal with traditional circumcision offences during this year's June/December circumcision seasons, said Sizwe Kupelo, the departmental spokesperson in a statement today. Kupelo said those who complied with legislation governing the custom in the Eastern Cape would be further capacitated with training and recognition of their practices, while those who continued to disregard the act would be severely punished.

He said departmental officials were conducting monitoring and evaluation in order to determine the baseline challenges and improve data collection.

Kupelo said the active approach taken by the department two years ago had borne fruit, with the closing down of illegal initiation schools leading to fewer circumcision casualties.

He said by hiring additional 4x4 vehicles for monitoring, the number of circumcision-related fatalities dropped from 33 in 2003 to eight last season, with another 77 initiates having genital amputations. Since 1995, 300 boys had died from circumcision-related complications and another 6 000 hospitalised. Last season 198 initiates were admitted to various hospitals, dropping from more than 400 the year before. He said the department was now arranging for psychological treatment to initiates who were hospitalised, following two separate incidents where traumatised initiates committed suicide fearing victimisation.

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