Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

Beyond Identity Scars: Reflections on the Vitality of Shangani Male Circumcision in the Context of HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

Beyond Identity Scars: Reflections on the Vitality of Shangani Male Circumcision in the Context of HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

Abstract

A broad spectrum of challenges has placed the African continent on the spot light under Cultural studies. Undoubtedly, HIV and AIDS is one of the contemporary challenges that Africa is facing. The adverse effects of HIV and AIDS on some sub Saharan African countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe continue to justify the often repeated comment that Africa is a 'continent in crisis'. Yet, the spread of the epidemic has been blamed on causes like adverse African traditional cultural practices such as polygamy, inheritance, child pawning and prescribing sex with virgins as an antidote to HIV and AIDS. This study focuses on the vitality of the Shangani traditional initiation ritual of Male Circumcision (MC) practice in the context of HIV and AIDS epidemic. The study argues that MC is one of the most elusive and peculiar cultures whose liveliness for the Shangani goes 'beyond the scars of identity' to curbing the spread of HIV and AIDS. By utilising the theory of anti-structure under the framework of a traditional rite of passage, the study seeks to show that Shangani MC is a processual mark of identity that enables young men to become adults. The paper established that the enduring cultural influence of MC is testified by its significance in HIV and AIDS contexts. The study concludes that there is need for a selective judicious integration of Shangani culture and modern health technologies to curb the epidemic and to be in sync with contemporary challenges obtaining in Zimbabwe.

Keywords: African Indigenous religion, culture, HIV and AIDS, male circumcision, Shangani, Zimbabwe.

INTRODUCTION

The world over, HIV and AIDS continues to ruffle feathers among different nations particularly those in sub Saharan Africa. Research has shown that the sub Saharan African region is a home to a mere 10% of the world's population but yet it harbours over 70% of those who are infected and affected with HIV and AIDS. Furthermore, the Southern African region has been under the spot light due to the deadly impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic with Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe having some of the highest levels of infection globally (Chitando, 2007:8). Evidently, HIV and AIDS is the chief culprit for the 'African cry' resulting in a lot of pain, suffering and death resulting in the description of Africa as a 'continent in crisis' (Jackson, 2002; Sibanda, 2010) Although Zimbabwe's HIV prevalence has gone down by half from approximately 30 % in the late 1990s to 14.6 in June 2011, there is no justification to relax since the statistic is still high. Nevertheless, Zimbabwe's HIV prevalence decline was attributed to the use of several intervention strategies such as the adoption of Male Circumcision (MC).

This study focuses on the vitality of MC among the Shangani people in the context of HIV and AIDS epidemic. The term 'Shangani' is used in this study to refer to the Hlengwe group that falls under the south- east Bantu linguistic unit (Bannerman, 1978:485). The study argues that there are varied perceptions on the use and significance of MC among the Shangani on the one hand and the government's adoption of the same practice, on the other. The research further posits that the traditional practice of MC among the Shangani is still perceived largely as a processual existential reality that determines personhood and identity ahead of its importance in HIV and AIDS situations. The South African scholar, Freddy Rikhotso published his work entitled Tolo a nga ha Vuyi (Yesterday Does not Return) as far back as 1985 to up hold ngoma ni vukhomba (male and female circumcision) as critical cultural heritage worth preserving among the Shangani. However, the work does not refer to the vitality of MC in the context of HIV and AIDS which had just been discovered in Zimbabwe then. It was not until in recently that MC was popularised for reducing the infection rate of HIV by at least 60%. Therefore, there is need to seriously endorse and fuse the traditional rite of passage among the Shangani with modern health strategies that call for the prevention of the deadly infection. …

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