Saving Babies - A Victory in Botswana
Tradition of Male Circumcision Exists in Rite of Passage Ceremonies
Male circumcision has long been part of the Bakgatla tribe's history through coming of age ceremonies like this 1934 initiation in Mochudi. Photo courtesy of the Phuthadikobo Museum.
MOCHUDI - Researchers are waking up to new evidence showing male circumcision as a powerful HIV prevention tool, but the procedure is nothing new to many tribes of Botswana who have long practiced it for cultural and traditional reasons.
Circumcision has been used for hygienic purposes or as a form of protection against the hot and sandy desert environment, but for most tribes in Botswana it was once considered a rite of passage for young boys entering manhood.
"It 's your identity. It 's about becoming part of something," says Sandy Grant, the founding secretary of the Phuthadikobo Museum in Mochudi, a village known for having a strong tradition of initiation ceremonies. "The chief once told me that women would turn their backs on uncircumcised men."
Circumcision was mostly abandoned in Botswana during the 19th and 20th centuries through the influence of European missionaries, who discouraged the practice as primitive. However, studies show that male circumcision remains well accepted among the Batswana and tradition in some tribes has kept the practice going.
With recent research showing that safe male circumcision can reduce a man's risk of acquiring HIV by more than 50 percent, international health organizations are now urging African countries to expand access to the procedure. Tribal leaders may be asking one question: what took so long?... Continued »