I circumcised twice – who cares?

Sonke Gender Justice

My name is Sikhangele Mabulu. I was born in Centane at Theko Kona Village in Eastern Cape. I now live in Kraaifontein in Cape Town. I was begotten by Mxolisi Mabulu and Nokhusile Mabulu. My father died in 2009, he was begotten by Jongile Mabulu and No Ankile Mabulu. Jongile is the son of Siphet Mabulu who was begotten by Xobileyo Mabulu.

My heritage

Xobileyo was begotten by Mabulu Burhu. Burhu is the brother of Hintsa and Malashe. Hintsa was one of the Kings of Xhosa and he was very popular in his time. I’m the second born in my family. I also enjoyed being the son of a royal family. My clan name is Tshawe and all of the above people belong to the same clan. Tshawe is the third son of Nkosiyomntu who is the grandchild of Xhosa. Xhosa is the brother of Zulu and Swati and these were the sons of Nguni ka Ntu.

Wow – I didn’t know that Zulu is the brother of Xhosa. Why do Zulus not do traditional circumcision? Anyway, cultural principles are adopted by certain groups and change when necessary. Zulu tribes practise almost the same principles as Xhosa tribes but not circumcision. If I circumcised twice, who will be harmed?

I respect my culture – and culture is dynamic

Yes, I circumcised twice, and I’m not joking. I always wonder when people ask many questions about my circumcision. I had asked the same questions to my peers, always coming up with my views and undermining their views especially if they were not circumcised or had undergone Medical Male Circumcision (MMC). That’s what I learnt from the elders. I’m proud to be black and African. I respect my culture but I also believe that culture is dynamic.

“Kwedini yiza ebuhlanti,” said one of the men outside the kraal. (“Come to the kraal, young man.”) This was the day of my traditional circumcision. I went to the kraal and I was happy and excited. I then moved to the bush with many people singing the song which relates to my circumcision. This happened during year of approval of the South African Constitution which recognised the freedom of cultures (Bill of rights, chapter 2).

I believed and I still believe that the traditional male circumcision is important to our culture because it unites the family, and gives an opportunity for the initiates to learn positive things from our culture. However, this is not the case in some communities or villages, and we cannot stop fighting against harmful interpretations of culture. For example, forcing someone to go for circumcision or deciding on behalf of the beneficiary. We need to eliminate some of negative things in our culture. We need to destroy the partisans of our culture. We cannot ignore the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, during the actual circumcision and after. We must campaign for one blade, one person, and the complete removal of foreskin, as required in the country’s regulations.

Conflicting advice?

MMC Doc and nurseIn 2009 I received a document from Nomfundo Eland, SANAC women’s rights sector representative, which spoke about Medical Male Circumcision. The document said if you remove the foreskin completely then you will limited your chances of getting HIV by 60%. I just told myself that this is rubbish because I thought it was nothing to do with me as I was already circumcised. This also reminded me about the messages I got during my circumcision period. They told me, “You must never compromise the principle of being men.”

This meant sharing the internal information about the initiation process to other people who do not know the process of traditional circumcision. The SA Constitution, however, had stipulated that everyone shall have access to information especially if the public has an interest in it and if it is public information (sec 32). I was trapped in that situation. I could not get rid of this document because of the term ‘completely’.

I circumcised partially but that was not my choice. But it was my choice to have sexual intercourse. It is my choice and will be my choice. The question about getting medical circumcision is “who cares?” Is it me, my ancestors, my friends, my family or my colleagues? They all care only if they respect my decision which will not harm me or others, based on research.

I could not ignore the advice, suggestions and guidance I got since 2009. I couldn’t torture myself because of other people’s judgement. I have five kids now, and if I failed myself, how much more would I be failing them?

In the early 90s, people killed and discriminated against other people because of HIV and AIDS but today almost every SA citizen understands the challenges and possible solutions to eliminate the virus.

I’ve done MMC already in Memoled hospital in Bellville last year, 5 October 2011, so ‘I circumcised twice’. My wife, my eldest son who will turn 17 soon, and my daughter who will turn 11 soon are very happy about my decision and I’m also happy. No one is hurt. My son is still looking forward for traditional circumcision but he wants his foreskin to be cut completely.

MMC egypt2