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South Africa's Coming-of-Age Ceremonies Continue to Claim More Lives

This winter's initiation season has already claimed the lives of 18 young men.

Eighteen lives have been claimed by the winter initiation season, according to eNCA. As if this were not concerning enough, these deaths have occurred in what are still the early days of the initiation season and the death toll may continue to rise in the coming weeks. A hundred young boys were also rescued from illegal initiation schools and numerous individuals have since been arrested.


The summer initiation season, which ended in January of this year, saw at least 37 young South African boys who set out to become men, return home in body bags instead. The Eastern Cape province alone accounted for 23 of these deaths.

READ: More South African Young Men Continue to Die in Coming-of-Age Initiation Ceremonies

Earlier this month, the winter initiation season was formally opened by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders of South Africa. However, in that first week alone, three lives were lost including that of a seven-year-old-boy—way below the legal age of circumcision which is 18.

These coming-of-age initiation ceremonies are heralded as being necessary in a young man's life and his passage to manhood. The ceremony itself, called ulwaluko in Xhosa, involves a journey to an isolated area or a mountain and primarily focuses on the circumcision of the boys who subsequently receive lessons on manhood and masculinity from elder males.

Speaking about illegal initiation schools and what their role has been in a considerable number of these deaths, COGTA provincial spokesperson, Mamkeli Ngam, said:

"We want to emphasize the rule of law, and those that break the law will be arrested. We want to make sure that all traditional surgeons who break the law are held accountable. We are also calling on parents to report cases of their children who are illegally circumcised so that the law can take its course."

Watch how initiation deaths have become a national crisis in the video below:

Initiation deaths are a national crisis www.youtube.com


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Burna Boy performs at the Warner Music Group pre-Grammy party in Hollywood on January 2020. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Warner Music)

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