New penis op cuts suicides

A senior traditional leader has hailed the world's first penis transplant as a godsend for young men mutilated during a traditional circumcision rite.

Thembu chief Ngangomohlaba Matanzima, chairman of the Eastern Cape Traditional House of Chiefs, said the recent transplant by surgeons in Cape Town was a "solution" for scores of such young men.

He said it was common, especially in Eastern Cape, for initiates to have their penises amputated after a botched circumcision or because of inadequate treatment of the wound.

Eastern Cape health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said there had been more than 200 circumcision-related penis amputations in the province since 2006.

This has led to a large number of psychological problems because many people did not recognise the victims as "proper men".

Matanzima said: "Young men who lose their penis face complicated psychological problems because they experience rejection by society.

"They are ridiculed when they squat to urinate like women. Some lose hope and even commit suicide."

Professor André van der Merwe, who led the transplant team, said the victims of botched circumcisions were at high risk of suicide.

"Patients have said that if they hadn't heard about this programme they would have committed suicide," he said.

-Farren Collins Additional reporting by Aarti J Narsee