Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

The Panacea and Perfidy of Cultural Rites of Circumcision in African Countries: Examples from Kenya, Botswana and South Africa

Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

The Panacea and Perfidy of Cultural Rites of Circumcision in African Countries: Examples from Kenya, Botswana and South Africa

Article excerpt


Cultural rites can be a panacea when the immense social capital embedded in them is taken stock of as well as they can be a perfidy when all the retrogressive aspects they constitute are taken into consideration. The aim and objective of this article is to generate debate and discourse on panacea and perfidy of cultural rites with particular focus on circumcision. The article used eclectic data sources. Cultural rite of circumcision is a panacea due to an array of factors: it marks entry into adulthood from childhood; it is a mark of cultural social identity in many societies of the world; it constitutes immense social capital and, currently, it serves as a platform for mitigating the effects of HIV/AIDS. Cultural rite of circumcision is also a perfidy due to: its violation of human rights to health; because it undermines boys' and girls' access to school; and because it is usually a leeway to early sexual overtures. The paper recommends to governments to: hold on their responsibilities to safeguard their citizens' rights to health; ensure that male circumcision is surgically safe and done in a hygienic environment; and, alongside NGOs and civil society, educate communities to balance between the human rights pertaining to circumcision and cultural rights.

Keywords: Panacea, perfidy, cultural rites, circumcision, social capital, HIV/AIDS, adolescents


Cultural rites in many social contexts have been important invaluable practices, forming part of the societal mirror, or aspects that are indeed valued and believed to constitute significant and integral components of societal cultures and lives. These practices, in my subjective analytical perspective, are a panacea forming important aspects of social capital. Social capital constitutes desirable values of love, trust, harmonious advice, and free and unconditional exchange of resources among community members, or parting with what one possesses and treasures for the benefit of others (Whittaker and Tracy 1987). These virtues are achievable where the spirit of association, collaboration, and togetherness is rife (Gottlieb 1983). Ironically, these practices forming important components of cultural social capital have been under attack by Western- based ideologies and practices, as well as imperatives of modernization, civilization and today, globalization (Kang'ethe 2009a). However, and ironically, these Westernbased values have continued to occupy an important and invaluable niche in the lives of many people in many regions of the developing world, putting Africa into focus. The shift has been made possible by unwarranted people's beliefs that all what is western is valuable; while most of what is indigenous or local is barbaric, second hand, unmethodical and of petty value (Kang'ethe 2009a). In fact, the emphasis of developing countries to go back to the roots or take the root of indigenization as a possible developmental path takes many individuals of the developing world aback and puzzled. This is because accepting this new dispensation has entailed a paradigm shift of their thinking (WHO 2002). This author considers critical to examine the important contributions that some of these cultural practices make with a focus on circumcision in selected African countries; as well as revealing their retrogressive aspects that are detrimental to people's lives.


The word panacea, which means an answer or solution for all problems or difficulties, is operationally taken to mean a phenomenon which is satisfactory and desirable; while the word perfidy that refers to the state of deception, disloyalty or treachery has been operationalised to mean a bad or undesirable state of affairs.


Analyzing and exploring the roles of some cultural rights by pitting them against contemporary issues in society is a welcome gesture informing the niche and contribution of culture in development. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.