South Africa’s Provincial Department of Traditional Affairs announced today that eleven teenagers have died of botched circumcision in
Eastern Cape Province within two weeks of their winter circumcision initiation season while six other initiates died in the same province when their initiation school caught fire. A funeral was held on Saturday for the six initiates that died in the fire. The Eastern Cape Province has reportedly been in the past a hotbed of circumcision-related deaths according to South Africa’s Provincial Department of Traditional Affairs. Last year, more than 70 boys died at initiation schools and scores of others were hospitalized in the Eastern Cape alone, according to the CDFSA. In the last 10 years there has also reportedly been an estimated 1,000 penile amputations.
The death toll of initiates in a short period “is alarming”, said Fikile Xasa from the department on Saturday.
The deaths occurred despite the “Zero Deaths” campaign launched by the government. Government-dispatched teams currently are monitoring the situation across the country during the initiation season.
Meanwhile, more than 22 boys have been rescued from illegal initiation schools in the province, according to the Community Development Foundation of South Africa (CDFSA), which deals with the safety of initiates.
Circumcision is viewed a sacred practice in African cultures, marking a male’s transition from child to adulthood. According to the tradition, young males have to be circumcised as the passage to manhood.