Young initiates are escorted to their homes after spending several weeks at an initiation school. File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - A men's forum has called on government, traditional leaders and communities to take an uncompromising stand in ending the "murder" of initiates, as the number of deaths reached 25. 

Working under the banner of the Takuwani Riime Men’s Movement, the "culturally and religiously diverse" group said on Tuesday that the "murders of innocent initiates in the name of cultural practice" had to be stopped. 

"Although we welcome the inquests related to the deaths of the initiates by police, our primary interest is not only in the punitive measures through the criminal justice system of those who have committed these crimes against humanity, but rather in the prevention of the senseless loss of the lives of the initiates," said the forum in a press statement.

The group said it supported the work of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) to immediately suspend the traditional initiation season in all the affected regions in South Africa "until all measures in place are satisfactory so that no more lives will be lost."

A strengthening of the multi-stakeholder plan of action was also needed, said the forum, as was mobilisation of affected communities to prevent deaths. 

"The proud heritage of an old age African practice is being systematically undermined by the continuing loss of African male lives. This is particularly disheartening in a day and age where there are readily available modern technologies and approaches that allow for safe circumcisions with minimal adverse events, let alone deaths.

"To continue observing and waiting for one more preventable death of healthy African males in the name of culture is simple primitive and borders on barbaric," said the forum. 

Issues surrounding culture and tradition remained sensitive, said the forum, but should not negate the need to prevent deaths. 

"There is no excuse nor justification for the death of innocent Africans in the name of shutting out voices to preserve a cultural practice when lives are lost. The rite of initiation should be about preserving lives and a celebration of the transition of boys to healthy manhood in order for all to benefit from what they have to contribute to society."

African News Agency (ANA)