In South Africa, Old Custom Becomes Health Crisis
Thursday, June 5, 2014
The young South African thought he was going to the hills to become a man. He came back with a horrifying injury that made him an outcast.
In 2012, Asanda lost his penis to gangrene in a botched circumcision ritual performed by a traditional surgeon wielding the same spear on more than a dozen initiates. He was an unusual case among thousands of men hospitalized after such ceremonies in past years because he broke a code of secrecy about the tradition and spoke out in protest. For that, he endured public humiliation and even a severe beating a few months ago.
“People would just stare at me, as if I were not a man,” 25-year-old Asanda told The Associated Press. He did not want his family name published for fear of a bigger backlash from his community.
This month, youths in some rural areas will head to secluded huts for circumcision rituals meant to usher them into manhood, an annual rite of passage during the current South African winter, and in the summer at year’s end. Officials hope to prevent another wave of injuries and deaths triggered by factors including infection and the tight binding of penis wounds, which cuts off blood supply, as well as sleep deprivation, exposure to winter cold and other harsh conditions.
Septic shock causes many fatalities. The problem is most severe in the Eastern Cape province, where nearly 500 young men have died in circumcision rituals since 2006, including 83 last year, according to the provincial health department.
- Health Care