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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Cutting Tradition: The Political Regulation of Traditional Circumcision Rites in South Africa's Liberal Democratic Order
Author:Vincent, Louise
Year:2008
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Volume:34
Issue:1
Period:March
Pages:77-91
Language:English
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:circumcision
Xhosa
children's rights
government policy
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Health and Nutrition
Politics and Government
Link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03057070701832890
Abstract:Recent years have seen a rise in casualties among those participating in traditional Xhosa circumcision rites in South Africa. Since 1995 more than 6,000 boys have been admitted to Eastern Cape hospitals, more than 300 have died and 76 have had their genitalia amputated due to botched circumcisions. The State has responded by putting in place a variety of mechanisms to regulate the practice, most recently in the form of the 2005 Children's Bill which gives male children the right to refuse circumcision and makes those who circumcise a child against his will guilty of an offence punishable by imprisonment. Attempts by the State to regulate traditional practices have been met with outrage and resistance in some quarters. Rituals are commonly identified as mechanisms contributing to social order, maintaining the organization of groups into hierarchies, specifying the performance of roles linked to factors such as age and gender, renewing group unity and a means for the transmission of values across generations. But in a society so deeply penetrated by colonialism, apartheid and industrialization, as South Africa is, what role do these rites play in the contemporary context? In a liberal democratic constitutional State, social order is conceived as a contract between the individual and the State in which the State upholds the rights of individual citizens. The State, in this conception of order, is the sole source of social authority. Final recourse is to the impersonal mechanism of the constitution as interpreted by the courts. Traditional rituals seem to suggest alternative loci of authority and alternative conceptions of the production and maintenance of social order. As a result, they can be seen as threatening to the liberal democratic version of order. This article examines how these conflicting conceptions of authority and order have played themselves out with regard to traditional circumcision in South Africa. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]
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