Of witchcraft and circumcision in South Africa


Here in South Africa, witchcraft is being blamed again for the deaths of some young men, who themselves participated in unnecessary circumcisions. To try criticise even the circumcisions, one is left with the “culture” defense which is worth strongly criticising and opposing.

Look, no matter what it’s blamed for, I can almost guarantee that witchcraft probably wasn’t responsible. But more importantly, it ties into a general attitude of long accepted traditions, which go against reason and science. JT Eberhard makes some good points.

In most African cultures boys must be initiated into manhood (by having circumcision performed).  This often takes place in ingoma (initiation schools) and often without the most sanitary of instruments.  Recently a story broke of a particular school where 28 boys died following the procedure.  To a mind unchained by traditional beliefs formed free from the burden of science or critical thinking, the solution is simple.

But when you have grown in a culture steeped in explanations that fall back to “magic”, it’s not so easy.

Read the rest to see the kinds of problems we face here.

This shouldn’t give the impression that South Africa is some backward place with lions running our generators powered by wizards; after all, our constitution was one of the first to, for example, explicitly detail non-discrimination based on sexual orientation; we have legal abortion and gay marriage; active anti-discrimination and support for sex workers; and so on. (BTW: Please don’t refer to “Africa” as a country!)

Nonetheless, there are many beliefs worth opposing and worth pointing out, that any appeal to culture should never by itself able to defend. This is especially true when it will lead to unnecessary suffering and death, merely to appease long-standing traditions.

Comments

  1. Seeker says

    You wrote: Nonetheless, there are many beliefs worth opposing and worth pointing out, that any appeal to culture should never by itself able to defend.

    In the USA there’s a hysterical response to parents who don’t choose to circumcise their infant boys. The only argument is cultural, but everyone is supposed to respect it blindly.

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