Traditional Beliefs Hamper Male Circumcision

By Mark Mhukayesango

SHURUGWI, October 19, 2015-Surgical male circumcision has been treated with disdain by many men
in Zimbabwe , who have shunned the practice due to ignorance or simply through
religious beliefs which do not accommodate the modern ways of
initiating boys into manhood.
For religious groups like Varemba who are also known as ‘Black Jews’,
male circumcision should be done the traditional way, whilst the
Shangani tribe also believes modern medicine has no place in
circumcision.
Such beliefs have hampered the number of men who are circumcised in
Zimbabwe in a given year, according to Psi Zimbabwe.
In Shurugwi District in the Midlands province where some Varemba people reside, the gospel of
male circumcision has not been readily welcome due to such beliefs.
Varemba who traditionally initiate their young men into manhood
through circumcision have been resistant to the dynamism of culture ,
choosing instead to keep their tradition whilst shunning out surgical
circumcision.
Speaking to Radio VOP , John Madlala a Remba descendent said his
people feared losing their cultural practices if they engage in
medical male circumcision.
“Our forefathers have been doing traditional male circumcision as
initiation into manhood for centuries , but due to the advent of
medical circumcision we fear our traditional beliefs will go extinct,”
said Madlala.
A Psi representative at a workshop held Friday in Gweru said
traditional and cultural beliefs have been a major hindrance to
medical circumcision.
“Some of these religious groups like Varemba have been resistant to
surgical circumcision since they have a different way of doing things.
Instead of shunning their practice , we have thus incorporated some of
their people into the process and we have seen a great improvement, “
the Psi representative said.
Through outreach programs , Psi has since successfully circumcised a
good number of Varemba men.
Speaking to Radio VOP in Shurugwi, District Medical Officer Shurugwi,
Marvin Nyamana said the Ministry of Health is currently training
personnel from such groups to help others appreciate circumcision.
“We train some of them so that we earn their trust. We always strive
to incorporate their beliefs into our counselling sessions before we
begin the process,” Nyamana said.
Shurugwi is currently using non surgical circumcision methods which
have been replaced by the new ring method which has since gathered
momentum with 33 pretext placements having been put during the Smart
Day at Chachacha Growth point.
Nyamana told Radio VOP that 450 men get circumcised monthly in
Shurugwi District , an improvement from early years were men have not
been forthcoming to get male circumcision.
“The campaign periods have really boosted the numbers of men
circumcised. But older men are reluctant to circumcision because of
the 6 weeks abstinence period ,” said Nyamana.
Men who would have undergone male circumcision are required to abstain
from sex to allow healing of the penal wounds.
Male Circumcision has been proven to reduce Hiv infections by 60
percent , reduce penal cancer and cancer of the uterus among other
benefits.
Radio VOP’s visit to Chachacha growth point also revealed that the
number of school going boys engaging in the circumcision programs have
increased over the years.
A group of Gato Secondary School students who got circumcised on the
day said the outreach program had boosted their confidence in both
surgical and ring circumcision.
“We came here to get the ring circumcision because we can continue
going to school without complications. It is good for our health too,
so we encourage other boys to get circumcised,” said the Gato
Secondary school boys.
Due to circumcision among other Hiv control methods there has been a
34% decline in HIV infections in Zimbabwe in 2015.
There has been a  57 % decline in HIV related deaths , although the
Ministry of Health also recorded a sharp increase in adolescent
deaths.