The DA welcomes the decision by the Bhisho Equality Court yesterday (subs: tues, 13 Oct) that circumcision is unlawful unless done with the full consent of the initiate.

The follows the abduction of Bonani Yamani (now 21 years old) who was subjected to violent traditional circumcision on 3 March 2007 after being circumcised at the Frere Hospital, three months earlier. Yamani refused to undergo the traditional rite as he believed it was against his Christian religion, conscience and belief. However, he was abducted and subjected to further circumcision by some 10 community leaders.

The Democratic Alliance wants to emphasize that it not only respects cultural practices and cultural diversity in South Africa, but will also do anything possible to protect it. However, the DA also believes in an open society, where people have freedom of choice. These sentiments were echoed by Justice Ebrahim, who said in his Declaration that the case was not about declaring traditional circumcision unlawful, but for allowing individuals a choice.

One can assume that traditional initiation and circumcision will continue to be a practice for many boys. However, a change in attitude is necessary to allow young men to decide for themselves whether they want to undergo the ritual or not, without the threat of being victimised by their communities.

In the light of the many botched circumcisions every season, initiates should also be allowed to make the choice whether they would prefer the circumcision to be done who want to participate in the ritual, also have the freedom to choose either a medical- or traditional circumcision.

I believe communities and families must take pride and responsibility for their children, and above all, protect their rights.

** The Consent ORDER of the Court made yesterday reads:

1.A Declaratory Order be made in the following terms:
That the First Respondent’s conduct in forcing circumcision upon the Second Complainant contrary to his religious beliefs, amounted to:
1.1 Unfair discrimination on the grounds of religion, conscience and belief, contrary to section 6 of Act 4 of 2000.
1.2 Harassment, contrary to section 11 of Act 4 of 2000.

2. The terms of Settlement between the Complainants and Third Respondents attached hereto marked ‘A’ are incorporated in this order of Court.

1. The Chairperson of Eastern Cape Contralesa apologises to Bonani Yamani for the remarks made by its previous Chairperson, Nkosi Nonkonyana, (on behalf of Contralesa) to the Press to the effect that persons such as Bonani, who refuse traditional circumcision, should be ostracised by the community.

2. Eastern Cape Contralesa accepts that the Constitution of South Africa gives the right to each adult male individual to choose whether or not he should attend traditional circumcision school according to his religious beliefs.

3. The Complainants withdraw their claim for costs against the Third Respondent and accept this agreement in full and final settlement of their action against Eastern Cape Contralesa Chairperson.

For further information, please contact Pine Pienaar, MPL on 082 446 1888

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