Anger over unlawful circumcision

A Pietermaritzburg woman is in a tizz after her underage cousin was circumcised without consent.

The boy’s guardian, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the minor, was horrified when she found out that the Grade 3 pupil at Panorama Primary School had the medical procedure done through a circumcision contract set up by the school with a local doctor, who is subcontracted by New Start.

She told Weekend Witness that while she had received a consent form from the school last Thursday, she did not sign it. The woman said she had told the nine-year-old that he would not be taking part for cultural reasons. She said according to their tradition the boy was only supposed to get circumcised through the Xhosa tribe rite-of-passage ritual into manhood, called ukwaluka.

“I told him that medical circumcision was out of the question because our culture doesn’t permit it. I made it clear that while his friends could be allowed to go, he wasn’t.”

The woman said on Tuesday she was shocked after she was told the pupil had been “mistakenly” circumcised. “Three women appeared at my door on Tuesday afternoon to inform me that my cousin had been circumcised by mistake.

“At first I thought it was a joke. I couldn’t understand how it had happened because I did not consent to it. I still have the unsigned consent form.”

The woman said when she asked how the child had been circumcised, she received “conflicting answers”.

“I asked them how they could perform a medical procedure on a nine-year-old without a written consent from the parent or guardian.”

She said at first one of the three women, who are employed as recruiters, said she had called the boy’s mother to get consent. “When I asked her to give me the number she called, another one quickly interjected and said that they didn’t call anyone. She said it had been a mistake.”

She said the recruiters said it had been a “slip up”.

“They had my number and his mother’s number and they didn’t bother calling either one of us,” she said.

“Their system is flawed if anyone can just go in and get the procedure done. I would assume that if a child is to be circumcised the doctor is supposed to see a consent form first. My cousin was not supposed to leave the school premises without my consent.”

The woman said the boy informed her that, despite telling his teacher that he had not been given consent to get circumcised, he, along with other pupils, were loaded in a bus and sent to the doctors rooms.

“They don’t even know my cousin’s medical history yet they decided to go and perform this medical procedure.

“I have not been prepared for this. I have no idea how to clean his wound. We now have to be extra careful about this and that. I have had to skip work to make sure that the child is fine.

“They have changed his life completely over a surgery which was not life saving. It was unnecessary.”

The boy’s parents have since opened a case against the school and the doctor.

Mountain Rise police station spokesperson Captain Gay Ebrahim confirmed that a case of unlawful circumcision of a male child under 16 under the Children’s Act had been opened.

When Weekend Witness contacted the school, the acting deputy principal directed all question to the Education Department.

Provincial Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department was investigating how the incident happened, adding that the Health Department employees had overstepped their authority by doing the procedure without the parent’s permission.

Meanwhile, spokesperson for the KZN Department of Health Ncumisa Mafunda said: “The department views this matter in a very serious light. Although preliminary evidence shows that none of the persons involved in this matter are in its employ (the doctor and his recruiter work for an NGO), the department has nevertheless instituted an enquiry into this matter. The department will not hesitate to take the necessary disciplinary action if any persons are found guilty of an offence.”