The initiation practises that take place in the Eastern Cape have been the topic of much debate of late – while cultural and traditional practises must be respected, reports show that 22 initiates have died in the process.
The CRL Rights Commission, a Constitutional body which deals with the promotion, protection, and rights of cultural and traditional communities, has suspended initiation schools and practises for a year while the deaths of 22 young men are under investigation.
The organisation has called on all key players to do everything that they can do to “promote the sacrosanctity, preservation and protection of life”, and has requested that law enforcement agencies bring those responsible for deaths to book.
“The commission has observed with dismay that in given instances the cultural practice of initiation robs families and communities of young people who either die or suffer genital amputation. The deaths of around 22 initiates are clearly a violation of the sanctity of human life,” the commission said. “The true and authentic traditional practice of initiation must be measured and judged by its ability to care and preserve the lives of the young initiates. The deaths and amputations suffered by these young men can never be tolerated, especially considering the fact that during the same period in 2018 about 17 boys had lost their lives.”
According to the commission, some of the major concerns include some that have been ‘repeatedly highlighted’. These include the kidnapping and abduction of children to illegal initiation schools, ongoing criminal activities disguised as initiation activities, along with the attitude of some initiation school operators who “believe they are above the law”.
The issues the commission have already dealt with include:
– The rescue and removal of initiates who were still at the centres where deaths occurred;
– Engaging various structures to address the abuse and commercialisation of the practice;
– Appealing to fathers, guardians and uncles to be available and accompany their boys during the initiation season;
– Addressing criminality at some of the initiation schools; and
– The identification, restructuring and capacitation of dysfunctional local initiation committees.