Court ruling brings relief

IT MAY have come too late for many youths who were kidnapped and forcibly circumcised but this week's landmark ruling on circumcision should hopefully change all that.

IT MAY have come too late for many youths who were kidnapped and forcibly circumcised but this week's landmark ruling on circumcision should hopefully change all that.

On Tuesday Bhisho high court judge Yusuf Ebrahim ruled that circumcision without consent was illegal and went against an individual's constitutional rights.

This follows an action by a young Eastern Cape man who took his father to court after he was forcibly circumcised despite his refusal on the grounds that he had already done so in hospital and that it was against his Christian beliefs.

The ruling holds out far-reaching implications for many communities since it asserts individual rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

That the judge ruled that circumcision without consent is illegal creates a conundrum for the communities who observe this rite since candidates earmarked for it are expected to comply without a murmur of protest.

Most significant is that the ruling interferes with the authority of the custodians of the tradition, such as chiefs, headmen and even parents who arbitrarily decide when and how their sons should be drafted for this rite of passage.

Surprisingly traditional leaders in Eastern Cape have already embraced the judgment, saying they respect each adult's right of choice. Really?

Our surprise stems from the fact that though this proud tradition has often been marred by kidnappings of youths, traditional leaders have not been known to denounce forced circumcision - just as long as the initiates were drafted to a legal initiation school.

We therefore welcome both the ruling and traditional leaders' response to it.

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