DISCLAIMER: This is yet another elaborate display of my ignorance. And you, oh wise reader, have yet another chance to educate me by posting your wisdom on that little space below titled “reply”
At the very beginning of the year I attended a relative’s funeral. As with all funerals among my kin, the event didn’t lack its fair share of speeches. I like funeral speeches. If the people that give them are genuine folk, funeral speeches tend to be unpretentious, sobering and sometimes funny. For as long as I live, I have purposed to hear more funeral speeches than wedding speeches. I need not say why.
So at this particular funeral, there was one unpretentious octogenarian – best friend to the deceased. He gave a detailed account of the dead man’s life and his unwavering friendship from their minion sized days. The story progressed to their adolescence and the old man made a point of informing the crowd that indeed his dead friend had been circumcised as a young boy. So important is this event among the Kikuyu community that it is included in the eulogy.
To emphasize the significance of this initiation, the speech giver even quoted a Kikuyu proverb I had never heard before. Loosely translated: To grow up and be a man is to be circumcised.
Now, I have a thing or two to say about this statement, but I’ll save my opinion for another post.
Of course circumcision means different things to various communities. And for communities that do not subscribe to it, well it lacks significance.
However, at the turn of the century, the World Health Organization noted that “there is compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%.” Thus began a concerted campaign to scale up circumcision for HIV prevention in Eastern and Southern Africa. Perhaps that is how the Shang Ring found a ready market in Kenya irrespective of tribe or creed.
Before I go any further this is my position on the matter: If WHO says circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV among heterosexual males, I’m all for circumcision by whatever means and however long or short it takes.
I just have a few questions:-
1. I always thought that for circumcision to count as a rite of passage into manhood it MUST be painful. Does that still count in the 21st century?
2. Now that the act is backed by medical evidence and has been proven to achieve a greater purpose (HIV prevention) than mere initiation, cultural progression and hygiene, shouldn’t the element of pain be done away with all together?
3. And for communities that have always valued the element of pain in the circumcision process, do they think that doing away with the masochistic aspects of it is actually “unAfrican” (kinda like how we think gay sex is unAfrican?)
4. Also, by doing away with the pain, will that further aggravate the position of the boy child who, it is claimed, is already emasculated and disenfranchised when compared to the ‘empowered’ 21st century girl child?
5. For the communities that circumcise boys at the onset of adolescence have they begun educating these boys on the main benefit of the process in the fight against HIV or are they still lying to them that it’s all about manhood?
6. Isn’t it time uncles, grandfathers, fathers and community elders started changing their perception of circumcision at the risk of misleading an already confused lot of young men in this country who are trying to find their place in a New World Order?
7. That said: To the men in my community who have always borne prejudices against a certain community that didn’t circumcise their boys, but who are now getting circumcised as adults in the face of HIV.., will you now see this community as people after all? Will you drop the prejudices spoken shamelessly in your vernacular? Now that they have ridden themselves of mere foreskin, are these people entitled to lead this country as much as you think you are?