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Storm brews over forced circumcision in Uganda

By Godfrey Olukya
Posted on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 16:11

The Ugandan town of Mbale was brought to a standstill on Tuesday afternoon, as a naked man ran through the streets, with more than 50 men in pursuit. He was fleeing a forced circumcision.

Only identified as Deo, the man sought sanctuary from the Resident District Administrator, as the men and a local scalpel-wielding surgeon gave chase.

Deo survived the forced circumcision after guards at the administrator’s office were able to disperse his assailants, but that was not before other men had fallen victim to the enforced surgical operation.

More than 40 men of various ages have been subjected to the cut in the last two days, as the town goes through a general circumcision programme, but this has faced widespread protests.

Mbale is mainly inhabited by the Bamasaba tribe, which prescribes circumcision to all males from the age of 15, and those who do not undergo the cut are forcefully circumcised.

However, it has emerged that the 40 men who were forcefully circumcised are not of the Bamasaba tribe, but rather were forced to undergo the operation, as they either had Bamasaba wives or girlfriends.

“Since they sleep with our sisters and daughters, we felt they had to be circumcised like the rest of us,” Gerald Wambedde, an advocate of forced circumcisions, said.

The leader of the exercise, Badru Wasike said the circumcision exercise was both a cultural and health exercise.

“We are helping those who feared getting circumcised through cultural processes. We are aware that circumcised men do not easily get infected with HIV/Aids. Since they love our relatives we want them to be safe,” he explained.

But this has raised a wave of protests in the town, 400 kilometres east of the capital, Kampala with some saying the forced circumcisions were inhuman.

“Men were told to unzip on the streets to ascertain whether they had been circumcised. That is not only unfair but also inhuman,” a human rights activist, Mbale,Keneth Mabonga, said.

The RDC has responded by banning forced circumcision and has instructed local police to arrest anyone suspected of enforcing the said cultural rite.

Culturally, the Bamasaba hold circumcision ceremonies every two years.

Those to be circumcised, as a rite of passage, undergo rituals including dancing half naked, while their bodies are smeared with ash.

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