Graphic circumcision website irks critics

Port Elizabeth -

Chilling images of deformed penises on a website slamming botched traditional circumcisions in South Africa have raised the ire of cultural commentators who called on Monday for the site to be shut down.

National legislation or regulations are needed to tackle the problems associated with initiations in the country, Western Cape cultural affairs MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said. File photo: Schalk van Zuydam. Credit: Associated Press

Dutch doctor Dingeman Rijken set up the webpage after scores of boys and young men died last year when the initiation ceremony into manhood went wrong. But critics say it betrays their culture and should have been handled differently.

“That website must be shut down with immediate effect,” said Nkululeko Nxesi from the local Community Development Foundation of South Africa (Codefsa).

“He (Rijken) should respect the cultural principles and processes of this nation,” Nxesi told AFP.

Traditional chief Patekile Holomisa echoed his sentiments.

“We condemn the exposure of this ritual to people who do not (follow) it. Women should not see what happens at initiations,” Holomisa, a former leader of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa told AFP.

By mid-2013, more than 50 boys and young men had died from infection, exhaustion and dehydration during the weeks-long initiation ceremony in the bush, while over 300 were taken to hospital, according to official figures.

Graphic images show severely disfigured, infected or amputated genitals on the website, named for the Xhosa word for initiation into manhood, which Rijken encountered while working in the rural Eastern Cape province.

“If you see so many boys dying, at some point you have to talk about it. Why do we sustain a ritual that slaughters boys in their prime or... scars many others for life?” Rijken told the local Daily Dispatch newspaper.

He is believed to have left the country to work in Malawi.

South Africa's Film and Publications Board (FPB) restricted the website for people under the age of 13 following a complaint by Codefsa because of “material which may be very disturbing and harmful to children”.

It, however, found that despite the shocking photos “it is a bona fide scientific publication with great educative value”, the FPB told AFP in an email.

“The website highlights the malice that bedevils this rich cultural practice. It does not condemn this rich cultural practice, but makes a clear plea for it to be regulated so that the deaths do not occur.”

A warning notice now appears when a reader visits the website.

But the cultural groups reject the board's finding, and have vowed to appeal its decision. - Sapa-AFP