New look at website on initiates

Katharine Child

“THEY wanted to be a man, but lost their manhood instead.”

These are the words of Dutch doctor Dingeman Rijken, in his defence to the Film and Publications Board (FPB) which today will decide whether or not to censor his website,

He created the site to show why traditional circumcision had led to 825 unnecessary deaths since 1995.

Former Health Department employee Rijken worked at Holy Cross Hospital in Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape last year and treated hundreds of injured initiates.

His site explains: “Poor hygienic practices are abundant. Most attendants do not use gloves … Bandages are reused on different initiates.” The website has had 180000 views in the past three weeks, with only 6000 from South Africa.

The Community Development Foundation of South Africa (Codefsa), a non-profit organisation assisting in the curbing of initiate deaths in the Eastern Cape, laid a complaint against the site. The FPB ruled that it was a “bona fide scientific publication with great educative value”. But the foundation appealed.

In his letter of appeal Codefsa director Nkululeko Nxesi requests the FPB shut down the website with immediate effect for the following reasons:

  • It portrays pornographic pictures;
  • Patient-doctor confidentiality is compromised; and
  • It violates cultural rights and undermines the custom.

Rijken said every patient featured on the site had given his consent. In his letter of defence he says: “The traditional leadership strives to censor this website because it exposes their negligence in a very clear manner.”

He also argues that “it is downright preposterous to equate pictures of injured penises to pornography”.

Rijken has said he will remove the website after traditional leadership “transforms the ritual and stops it from leading to unnecessary deaths”.

Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders chairman Nkosi Ngangomhlaba Matanzima and an influential traditional leader in Pondoland, Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, said they would support Codefsa in the appeal. – Additional reporting by Lulamile Feni

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