A MONTH WITH THREE INITIATES DURING THE XHOSA CIRCUMCISION RITUAL

by
Richard Bullock
29 May 2015

The male initiation ceremony of the Xhosa people of South Africa, Ulwaluko, is an age-old tradition. It’s a mystical, secretive ritual that occurs far away from the eyes of the public, and virtually the only information non-participants and non-family members ever have about it is the disturbing death toll from what the newspapers call botched circumcisions. As a result, there is pressure from some quarters to ban the custom altogether.
   And, as winter approaches and a new crop of abakwetha are preparing to ‘go to the mountain’ to earn the right to call themselves men, the controversy is bound to resurface. But, having spent the 2014 winter season filming a documentary with three abakwetha, I can testify that the ceremony is a test of courage, and is much more than a circumcision ritual.

Banning it is a ridiculous notion. Ulwaluko is fundamental to Xhosa life

I think banning it is a ridiculous notion. Ulwaluko is fundamental to Xhosa life, but it’s not a rigid, inflexible ritual. It changes with the times. For example, the abakwetha no longer actually go to the mountains, but somewhere close by yet cut off from the village. And the seclusion period is much shorter. When 63 year-old Bangile Pakamile went through initiation he was away for six months, and his younger brothers, who are in their forties, spent three months in seclusion. Now their sons Sandile and Anathi, and their close friend Lulama, will spend one month in the bush.
   There are two seasons for the Ulwaluko – winter and summer. Despite village elders murmuring ‘we had it harder’, the month in the bush is by no means easy, particularly in winter. Every boy knows the inherent dangers – the number of deaths mount up on the front pages like a recurring nightmare. Indeed, by the time Sandile, Nathi and Lulama had safely stepped out as new men, 39 initiates had died in the Eastern Cape, and more than 300 had been hospitalised.

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The adults of the community build the hut in which the initiates will live for the month of the ceremony.
©Richard Bullock
The number of deaths mount up on the front pages like a recurring nightmare

The initiates, who are known collectively as abakwetha or individually as umkwetha, surrender their names. Their clothes are shredded in the days leading up to their exclusion, and they carry a short stick with a white cloth tied to one end. Women cut dry grass for thatching while men chop down flexible saplings. Dressed in traditional clothing the adults construct a domed dwelling called iboma that will serve as home for the abakwetha. Each of the customs is intricate and detailed, but there is no instruction booklet, so the men constantly remind each other of the many important details as the preparation continues.
   The structure is surrounded by a symbolic barrier of thorn branches with a single entry and exit point. One member of the construction crew accidentally stepped across the thorn branches and was scolded by one of the elders. His indiscretion was probably due to ceremonial brandy rather than a failure to adhere to traditional guidelines. Alcohol has woven its way into every stage of the ceremony. Where traditional beer known as umqombothi might have once served a role, brandy and Castle Lager have been added. I find myself included in this custom, and a bottle of brandy is requested from me. All those present contribute in one way or another. The greatest contribution comes from the parents of the initiate. By my calculations it costs somewhere in the region of ZAR10,000 (US$900) to put a boy through the initiation. There are cows and at least two goats to slaughter, traditional blankets, a month’s worth of food, traditional surgeon fees, overseer fees and food and drinks for parties. And the brand new smart clothes worn at the end of the month can cost in excess of ZAR2,000 alone. It’s a significant burden on already financially stretched families.

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Buttons with no holes

John Pakamile, 20-year veteran overseer of the initiates, tells me that the early white settlers brought two things to the Xhosa people. Alcohol and buttons with no holes. I sat dumfounded, pondering ‘buttons with no holes’. John laughed at me and said: ‘We had everything we needed. Fresh water from the rivers, wild animals to hunt, livestock and gardens – what use did we have for money?’
   For rural people far away from industrial and commercial centres, making ‘buttons with no holes’ is a constant struggle. But despite the economic hardships many live full and dynamic lives filled with humour, warmth, love and generosity. It is a close community, and participation in the Ulwaluko involves every member of the wider family group as well as friends. While elders ensure practices are correctly adhered to, five or six younger boys will be in constant attendance to the abakwetha. Delighting in their role as inqalathi, the young boys chop wood from the nearby forest, and begin making a pile of firewood outside the entrance to the iboma.

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In order to comply with regulations governing traditional circumcision, initiates must be at least 18 years of age, and must present written parental or guardian consent to the central office of records for initiates. In terms of the act, the initiates, the traditional surgeon, and the overseer must all be registered and have the necessary permits. There are actually traditional police who visit during the season demanding the official papers, which are kept in a plastic sleeve and tucked up into the thatching of the iboma. Failure to comply may result in fines and/or prison.
   At the office of records we met with the traditional surgeon. Although the circumcision is still done with an assegai (spear), I am assured by John that hygiene standards are rigorous. For two initiates the spear has two sharp blades, one on each end. For three initiates the surgeon brings two spears. The surgeon is an outsider who only appears for the removal of foreskins. He attends to all the initiates in the area, and thankfully is not at any time a participant in alcohol-related rituals.

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While the initiates prepare to face the surgeon, the community prepares a feast to strengthen them for the trials to come.
©Richard Bullock

Going to the mountain

When the big day arrives for Sandile, Anathi and Lulama there is a huge gathering at the family homestead. The abakwetha are stripped naked and ushered inside the family kraal (traditionally a collection of huts within an enclosure). They sit on the bare ground where they are draped in grey blankets while a cow and goat are slaughtered. There is a great deal of alcohol consumed by those in attendance, especially the old men who sit looking on from a semi-circle of chairs. Axes and knives flash in the winter sun as the animals are butchered, cooked in big pots, then rapidly consumed by all.
   All the while, in the swirl of dust, blood and noise, the abakwetha sit quietly with heads bowed in submission while attending men explain what is to come, and what is expected of them. Their heads and pubic hair are shaved. They are offered choice cuts of goat and cow, and encouraged to fill up.

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surfer-xhosaLulama-Anathi-Sandileinqalathi-stoking-fire
In normal times, the boys are avid surfers of the ocean near their village in Chintsa.
Lulamu, Anathi and Sandile not long after circumcision.
During the long cold nights and days, little helpers look after the initiates by collecting wood and stoking the fire in their hut.
©Richard Bullock
They find the surgeon waiting for them in the bush with spear in hand

At dusk all the men rise and encircle the abakwetha singing an immensely powerful song. They slowly shuffle and dance along the road while the entire village ululates and shouts. The energy in the group feels edgy and somewhat dangerous. The men carry an assortment of sticks, and small scuffles break out as they near the edge of the village. Suddenly the three abakwetha drop their blankets and run for their lives as the men tear after them shouting and wielding their sticks. It must have their teenage hearts beating out of their chests.
   Having escaped one terror they find the surgeon waiting for them in the bush with spear in hand. They sit down with legs apart and a rapid single cut from the assegai removes the foreskin. The boys make no sound; they don’t even flinch, stoic bravery being an important part of this and the hurdles to come. Their wounds are dressed with a medicinal plant called izichwe and then tied with a leather thong around their waists. There is only a small group in attendance, and in the fading light I can just see one of the boys’ shoulders rise as the thong is pulled taut, but he makes no sound.
   The white cloth tied to the stick that they carried is thrown high into the air, a signal that it is done. A collective cry from the village follows – it is the last time the women will see or hear anything of the abakwetha for a month.

John-oversees-the-correct-application-of-river-clay
John oversees the correct application of river clay.
©Richard Bullock

Seven days of pain and hunger

For the first few days the abakwetha are understandably in great pain and discomfort. They eat only half-boiled maize and no water for seven days. They have a single blanket and a little straw between them and the cold earth. The little inqalathi are their lifesavers keeping the fire burning through the night. It’s freezing cold and the abakwetha lie with their knees raised getting progressively weaker as the days go by.
   Their overseer John Pakamile shows them how to dress the wounds with ischwe leaves, visiting them up to four times a day during this critical time. After five days, John covers their faces, arms and legs in the white clay of the initiate. It is supposed to keep them warm and protect their skin from the sun, but no deeper meaning is forthcoming. The initiates must keep up this application of white clay or be punished. They are also given beautiful white blankets with red stripes, and they sit silently in the sun as John delivers the next set of instructions.

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The initiates are in pain for days after their circumcision. A meagre diet of maize and no water for seven days also adds to their fatigue, to the extent that they find it difficult to stand.
©Richard Bullock

It will be two days before they are allowed water. They appear thin and weak. They tell each other stories to keep away boredom, and they talk about food often. Their jaws hurt from grinding half-cooked maize.
   They must show vigilance in their actions. John makes them hold the water bottle for him to wash his hands after dressing the wounds. Even though they are dying of thirst, they never complain.
   On the morning of the seventh day they are so weak they can barely stand. What were once three vigorous teenagers now appear like old men, hunched over their sticks. They hardly talk as they slowly apply white clay to their bodies before leaving the iboma. A goat is slaughtered outside, and the men in attendance drink ceremonial brandy in the warm winter sun. The abakwetha are given great spoonfuls of maize meal and sour milk followed by hunks of broiled goat. Their personalities and vigour begin to return; they begin to laugh, tell jokes and even dance.
   In the days that follow they go for walks to collect leaves for dressing their wounds. The big stiff leaves are rolled between two bottles to soften them for comfort. I tried to help by collecting leaves and, on offering some to Sandile, he looked at them and said, ‘Not big enough, Rich.’ I don’t think he meant to joke, he just needed bigger leaves than I would.

in-red-and-white-blanketInitiates-cut-the-wood-for-last-night-party-for-old-menBoy-puts-leaves-on-wound-while-friend-sends-a-text
After their initial seven days of meagre food and no water, the initiates are given better food and colourful blankets which help keep them warm. Below, an initiate puts fresh leaves on his wound while a visiting friend texts on his cell phone.
©Richard Bullock
The seclusion, suffering and pain represent the
trials of life

There are two other iboma built across the hills where six more abakwetha are undergoing the Ulwaluko. We went for a long walk to see how they were doing. Their iboma are very impressive. I later find out one of the boys fathers works for a thatching company, and that he used old thatch and poles. These initiates are attended by a gaggle of their own inqalathi. These micro-lumberjacks scale the thorn trees and work their machetes to keep firewood coming.
   As the days pass slowly the abakwetha walk in the hills chopping wood, teasing the inqalati and following their strict regimen. By day 20 their spirits are high. They dance, stick fight and hunt for rabbits in the bush. Their little helpers continue to devastate the thorn tree population.
   The inqalathi are learning all the time. They watch all the ceremonies and learn the ‘language’ of the abakwetha, taking in with some trepidation what their own rite of passage will require when it is upon them.
   The verbal transfer of knowledge seems secondary to the symbolism. The seclusion, suffering and pain represent the trials of life; it is the process that matters, not what is said. It is a test of personal character and fortitude. Of course no boy should needlessly die, but I wonder if the Xhosa would place such a high value on the ceremony if there were zero chance of fatalities.

Abakwetta-vsiting-another-group-one-hour-away-through-bush
Initiates visit another group one hour’s walk away through the bush.
©Richard Bullock

I won’t go to Makiwane

The abakwetha sing a beautiful song about their ordeal. Patrick, one of the inqalathi, translates it for me. While the backing singers repeat the phrase ‘It’s hard to be a man’, Lulama who has a higher voice, sings the guidelines of the abakwetha. In particular one verse is repeated: ‘I won’t go to Makiwane, no, no, no, it is not the time for Makiwane. Be quiet little boy, it’s hard to be a man.’
   Cecilia Makiwane Hospital is the public hospital on the outskirts of East London. I ask them what it would take for one of them to go to hospital. Sandile calmly points his finger at the ground of the iboma and says, ‘We will never go. We will rather die here than go to hospital.’

‘We will rather die here than go
to hospital’

Meanwhile the death toll for initiates stands at 35 in the Eastern Cape for this winter season, and there is still a week to go. This reluctance to seek outside help is one of the key reasons so many initiates die, but some overseers do act responsibly. Last year pneumonia spread amongst initiates nearby. The supervisor blamed bad spirits in the iboma, and got all the boys proper medical attention. When they were well again they went back into another iboma, well away from the previous site. A smart application of spiritual beliefs saved the boys lives – and upheld tradition.

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Little boys sneak a surf magazine in for the initiates. Below, with their strength and testosterone returning, the initiates play at stick fighting.
©Richard Bullock

I have filmed the abakwetha carrying out the morning ritual of applying white river clay many times, but today, perhaps through boredom, they adorn Anathi’s back with a giant NIKE logo – another strange clash of the traditional and the new. Lulama gets Zebra stripes on his back and Sandile gets his girlfriend’s name. It seems rebellious. I dread to think how many whacks of the cane John might give them if he sees the NIKE logo. Maybe he won’t mind. Understanding the taboos is a minefield, and perhaps that’s the idea – to keep the abakwetha on their toes.
   At this stage their mood is high and they count the days towards the 12th of July. I have taken to showing them videos of my children in Sydney. We all laugh, they see Charlie’s fourth birthday cake and are stunned as if they have never seen anything quite so amazing.

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New world cool mingles with old tradition.
©Richard Bullock

Boys to men

John and his youngest son cut palm leaves that they bend into three crowns for the initiates as a symbol that their homecoming is near. Their heads are freshly shaved, and John instructs them to shave the head of one of the inqalathi, ten year-old Athiti. It is an honour for him, as he will serve as a mascot over the coming two days. He will lead the procession back to the village and participate as if he were an umkwetha himself.
   On their final day in the bush the abakwetha and inqalathi work hard chopping a huge stockpile of wood. Men build a bonfire outside the iboma and play a traditional initiation game called ceya through the night. It’s played with short and long twigs concealed in each hand and it’s accompanied by what seem to be impersonations of animals, spirits with strange clicks and squeals. In the firelight the wild gesticulations, explosive laughter and warmth between the men of all ages is magical. How long have men played ceya by the fire under the spectacular African night sky?

Older-men-stay-up-all-night-before-homecoming-playing-CeyaLulama-and-palm-headressWhite-clay-is-washed-off-the-morning-of-the-homecoming
Older men stay up all night playing “Ceya” before the initiates homecoming. Lulama with his crown of palm fronds, given to initiates on the occasion of their homecoming. Below, the initiates wash the clay from their bodies before returning home.
©Richard Bullock

At dawn, John leads the abakwetha to the river. Before entering the water they pay homage to the ancestors by daubing river clay on their foreheads, then they stand knee-deep and carefully wash all remnants of white clay from their bodies. In the cold morning light they head back to camp naked. Bangile, the eldest of the Pakamile family, covers their bodies in butter. He then covers them in coloured blankets leaving them just a tiny peephole through which they hold their black sticks.
   Forming a single line behind young Athiti they shuffle away from the iboma, where the men break into song and set the hut alight. Within minutes it is fireball; all the trappings of the last month, incinerated. The abakwetha do not look back as they walk on followed by dozens of men young and old. As they move through the village, women ululate, and small children join the group. When they reach the Pakamile homestead the women beat sticks onto a sheet of corrugated iron.

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The boys sit outside the kraal, the little mascot Athiti at one end and an older man at the other representing the generations. Seated around the boys are more than a dozen old men. Each of them stands to impart words of wisdom to the abakwetha. At the conclusion of each speech a symbolic offering of a one or two Rand coin is made, representing the first step on a much larger journey. All I can think about is buttons with no holes.
   After the speeches the initiates are moved inside where they are surrounded by friends and siblings. Two girls enter and transform the boys by painting their faces with red ochre and wrapping their heads with black and white cloth. From being amakhwetha the initiates have become amakrwala. Finally they begin to relax their stoic demeanor.
   The following day, after a hearty breakfast of soup, vegetables and meat, the three amakrwala are escorted to Lulama’s rural home, a beautiful spot overlooking a pristine valley.

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A proud Athiti, chosen as the mascot of the initiates homecoming.
Back among their community after a month, the initiates’ faces are painted in dark red ochre.
©Richard Bullock

As a thank you to the overseer and the people of Chintsa village, the family slaughter a pig for their guests, and mark the occasion with more brandy and beer. While family members sit in the morning sun, men butcher the pig and cook it on the open fire. The amakrwala sit in the grass, and Lulama sees his siblings for the first time in a month. At a certain point John ushers him into a hut. Here Lulama washes himself and bathes his whole body while standing in a large enamel dish. He finally reappears in brand new western clothes. Lulama’s face is then smeared with a brownish paste to mark the final stage of the transition.
   The entire group then travels back to Chintsa village. Sandile and Nathi wash and dress in their own smart flat caps, jackets, pressed trousers and leather-soled shoes. Bangile, the oldest man, embraces them and warmly slaps them on the back. There are some brief speeches and ceremonial brandy shots, and it is finally over. They walk out of the hut and take their first steps on the long journey of life as men.

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It is over. These are new men in their new clothes.
©Richard Bullock

It’s hard to be a man

Not once did I witness fighting, drinking or disobedience from the abakwetha. Likewise, the adults in direct supervisory roles performed their duties skillfully and responsibly. Because the tradition isn’t written down or uniform across the Xhosa nation, I am sure there are many variations on the ceremony, and I suspect the deaths and mutilations may be the result of badly run initiation schools. Perhaps because I have witnessed a school that is run well, I am biased, but people from my own culture circumcise babies, and voluntarily risk their lives with breast augmentation and nose jobs. We are quick to judge traditional cultures, and even quicker to forget our similarities.
   I loved the warmth and comfort shown by the community of men. I have never sat in communion around so many fires, and seen children and adults work together so effortlessly for a common cause. All had their role and all had respect for one another. I was shown incredible kindness and understanding, and was never questioned about my presence or purpose. They trusted me. The long ceremony gave me the time to ponder my own role as a man, something westerners like me blunder into via alcohol-fuelled 21st birthday parties.
   When I asked the abakwetha why they had to go through all this, they replied: It’s hard to be a man. You can’t buy it, or be given it, you have to be it. You have to endure pain, hunger and hardship. When times get tough in your life, you know you got through your initiation, so you can get through whatever challenge you are faced with. africa-geographic-logo

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  • Viccy Baker

    Fascinating information and pictures – an indictment on us who live in South Africa that we have to be taught about these things by some-one who lives in Sydney……

  • Richard Young

    The sad truth is that traditions like this are increasingly in conflict with the realities of modern civilisation. The confluence of western and African traditions is one of the wonderful and unique things about South Africa, but also a source of tension. The custom has changed, and will keep changing, and it needs to change. All our customs change over the years. Already urban communities cannot practice Ulwaluko like this, and many urban Xhosa men don’t participate in this ritual at all anymore. Rural communities cannot keep “devastating the thorn tree population”. Eventually there will be nothing left, as is already the case around many larger rural communities. The requirement for hardship as a rite of passage does not justify the unnecessary deaths of dozens of innocent boys, every year, from exposure or infection. This account illustrates the African tension of wanting to cling to the tribal traditions and customs, while living in the 21st century and having to dress up in expensive western clothes afterwards.

    At what point do we say goodbye to the old traditions? At what point do we recognise that certain old traditions are past their expiry date? Over the centuries, horrible customs like human slavery, gladiator fighting to the death, confession by torture, throwing heretics to the lions or burning them at the stake, have all been a kind of tradition that was accepted and practiced universally, but fortunately became obsolete and unacceptable as civilization marched on. I’m not putting this in the same category, but there are areas of overlap here with other, more disturbing tribal traditions that are still common here.

    We want a modern health care system based on real medicine and real science, but at the same time we want to cling to our witch doctors and their spells and their muti. We ban child labour but we praise this wonderful custom of Ulwaluko with its unnecessary annual death toll. We want a modern constitution and protect human rights and conserve our environment, but at the same time we want to protect customs and traditions that cause Sangomas to slaughter our wildlife or kidnap children for muti killings. We want a modern, democratic government and we talk about equality and women’s rights, but we accept as our president a tribal patriarch who marries 5 different women and has 20 children, some even by other women who are not one of his wives. And we have an unelected tribal king who incites tribalism and xenophobia. We want to teach science and math in our schools but preserve animalism and ancestor worship and the traditions that go with them. Of course, we promote freedom of belief or religion and we need to honour the beliefs and customs of every people group. One can argue that Satanism is also a belief system or religion that should be allowed, except that in practice this might include human sacrifices. There are still tribes who practice cannibalism. At what point do we do away with superstition and outdated traditions and embrace modern civilisation?

    As Richard says, you cannot ban Ulwaluko. And we can appreciate the good aspects about it, the sense of community, the warmth of brotherhood, the courage and bravery, the wisdom of the elders, etc. Those aspects make it a beautiful tradition. But traditions are not always good, and no tradition is sacred. Traditions are formed by men, and they can and should be challenged by men. It’s hard to be a man. Especially a man who has the courage to stand up and speak out when it is time to change the old traditions.

  • Ted Black

    “Banning it is a ridiculous notion. Ulwaluko is fundamental to Xhosa life.” Eh?? So
    was human sacrificing. Apply some intelligence Richard!!!!

    Ted Black

    Glasgow, Scotland.

  • Everything except the circumcision is good for them! Tho’ I see some exploitation in the costs !
    The rabbi would be proud of them!!

    • Jeanne Parmentier

      Really circumcision being done that way it’s cruelty !

  • Gail Mckay

    Have to agree that circumcision…male OR female…needs to stop! Changes in rituals do show we are evolved!

    • Jeanne Parmentier

      Circumcision for men has to go on for hygiene, but for women, it has to stop !! It’s unfair……

      • Gail Mckay

        Wow – cannot agree with ‘hygiene’ statement! – it’s maybe your opinion but research shows otherwise quite definitely. Circumcision now seen as religious or cultural practice.

        • Jeanne Parmentier

          Quiet disgusting a man not circumcised !! The foreskin carries so much dirt, bacterium and smell that is a shame !! It’s proven that countries where men are circumcised, it’s less uterus’ cancer on women !! The OMS has proven that fact already since long time !

          • Stop to think

            Women get 10X the genital infections than men do but you’re concerned about men’s genitals? If you were worried about genital cleanliness then you should be advocating for females to have their genitals cut to reduce infection.

            Circumcision is rare in Europe, yet the USA has the highest HIV and STD rate in the industrialized world.

            The majority of the world’s men have their entire penis still. If you think natural genitals are disgusting perhaps you have the problem. Every mammal, male and female, has a foreskin. Why do you think the human male is the only one that needs surgical intervention? Should the decision not be left to the owner of the penis, the boy himself? His right his body, right?

            Oh, and there is evidence that female genital cutting reduces HIV rates. However, I think condoms and education work better than cutting a kid’s genitals apart.

            http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1113&context=iph_theses

          • Jeanne Parmentier

            Yes, of course, women get 10x more genital’s infections than man because they get infected by men ! Circumcision is not rare in Europe at all and in many clinics and hospitals, the little operation is done automatically following the first week of birth unless the mother would ask not to do it. The same in the USA. HIV and STD have nothing to do with circumcision ! I repeat again that the penis foreskin is a carrier of diseases. Just contact the OMS and ask them about the subject, ok ! Or consult a gynecologist who’ll explain to you the situation !

          • Namaste

            maybe you should go to Europe because there is no way it will be done automatically !! Sorry but get your infos right, I am French and none of my friends/family are circumcised. It’s a mother job to teach her little boy to clean it nicely. Women who have hygiene are not prompt to infections !!! geez wondering where you come from.

          • Jeanne Parmentier

            Je n’ai pas du tout envie de continuer cette discussion car ca tombe dans le ridicule ! Informez vous aupres de l’ Oeuvre Mondiale de la Sante et posez leur quelques questions don’t ils se feront une joie de vous repondre !! Comme cela vous aurez l’avis de professionnels ! Bonne chance !

        • Jeanne Parmentier

          Maybe you don’t even know the difference, Gail !!

          • Gail Mckay

            Not sure what you mean but your message feels a little condescending – I really don’t need or want to engage in that kind of discourse!
            Each to their own opinion, I suppose.

      • Stop to think

        Right, because women’s genitals are so much cleaner. Women never get genital infections or UTIs. There isn’t an entire shelf dedicated to women’s genital infections in the drug store. Is there one for men, even in countries where circumcision is rare – no. Look’s like women’s genitals are much dirtier but modern medicine and soap and water are enough for them. Your hygiene argument is false.

        • Jeanne Parmentier

          Why don’t you ask the OMS or speak to a gynecologist about the subject and you’ll find out from where comes all the women’s genital infections !!

          • Stop to think

            HA! You blame all of women’s infection on men? How do virgins get UTIs and yeast infections? Why do women in countries where most men are circumcised still get genital infections? Perhaps your theory of males being inherently dirty is wrong. Perhaps there is no justification for forced genital cutting on infants.

          • Jeanne Parmentier

            Yeast infections come from the intestine! The bacteria pass into the vagina. Often, after taking an antibiotic which kills the intestine’s flora the yeast infection appear ! This is not a disease contacted by men but if the woman doesn’t get cured, she can infect a man ! I don’t say that all genital’s women infections are caused by uncircumcised men but many women’s infections could be avoided ! Please, as I already told you, inform yourself with the OMS.

          • Stop to think

            Regardless, the rates of circumcision worldwide are dropping and thus far there has been no significant jump in female genital infections nor death from the same.

          • Jeanne Parmentier

            Sorry, you’re really the one who’s not well informed or not informed at all !!

          • Stop to think

            So despite all evidence to the contrary, 80% of the world’s men and women having no problem with a penis not modified by surgery, and women having more fold and producing far more secretions and suffering 10X the genital infections you are still a proponent of cutting infant’s penises with no medical indication.

            Perhaps you should re-examin your reasons. It is barbaric to make an infant suffer needless simply because you are not woman enough to deal with a real, natural penis. You are just as bad as men in the middle east who insist that vaginas are disgusting if they are not circumcised.

            Perhaps you simply have a sexual fetish for cutting baby boy’s genitals apart?

      • JJ

        Why don’t you just go and read a little bit about circumcision has nothing to do hygiene? And after that, read that circumcision has been declared as a men mutilation and reduces the sexual pleasure.

        • Jeanne Parmentier

          You’re joking !!

        • Jeanne Parmentier

          Oh! well, circumcision has everything to do with hygiene, that’s for sure ! I’ll repeat and repeat it again and again ! Men wont pull the foreskin to wash everytime they go to pee and that makes a lot of germs accumulation and provokes an awful smell ! Of course, there are extra careful men having a true hygiene !! Now, there is a lot of men and women who don’t even know about circumcision and don’t know the difference if they’re not Jews or Muslims! It seems like talking about it, it’s a taboo !! Or they simply ignore it !! In 2015, it’s really sad to be ignorant to that point ! The MONDIAL HEALTH ORGANIZATION is screaming very loud about the importance of it since many years ago, they discovered that countries where men were circumcised, there was a 40/00 less cases of cancer in the utero on women !! So find out by yourselves !!

          • JJ

            Again, women have a hundred times more bacteria inside the vigan and in the vulva than a not circumcised man could has in its glans. So, let’s not compare bacteria numers here.

            About deseases, well, a lot of microorganisms live and spread themselves mucho more easier inside the vagina. That’s why normaly, women are a most likely carriers of those deseases.

            About smell. I think we all know which gender is the one with more smell probles in that area. What you propose, is that men should have their body mutilated so you dont have to smell the ones who aren’t clean enough… well… maybe you should think about cutting your nose off. Ah? With the difference that you would not loose sexual sentivity by cutting your nose and men DO, when they perform circumcision on them.

            CIRCUMCISION = GENITAL MUTILATION. Take a look at this graphic.

            http://www.wakingtimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Sorrells-et.-al_Sensitivity_Study.jpg

            Mutilation of labia minora in women it’s similiar to do it with the “foreskin” of men. So NO… we are not going to cut a part of our penisses over no religion, cultural or any other reasson that DOES NOT justify that we loose our most sensitive part of our genitals. NO!!!!

  • Terry Tinker

    Our fractured western culture lacks these rights of passage. I know we have some, but they few & far between for men, and even less for women. I find this a compelling story of a ages old community building practice in a wonderful society. Thank you for bringing us this read.

  • NATIVE ROOTS

    From a Xhosa Man… you guys failed the passage and will never be declared MEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Camera’s and white people are and were never allowed! in doing this you have sold the Thousand old Passage for “good read”.

    BullS*&T!