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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 19:32 GMT 20:32 UK
Circumcision tragedy in South Africa
Circumcision death in South Africa's Eastern Cape
A boy has died and 24 others have been hospitalised in South Africa after circumcisions performed as part of a rite of passage ceremony went wrong.

The circumcisions had gone wrong in every single case

Police spokesman Mabhelo Ngame
According to police spokesman Inspector Mabhelo Ngame, the boys, aged between 14 and 18 years of age, were in a serious condition in hospital.

There are fears that some may have to have their penises amputated.

The circumcision operations were performed at an initiation school in the town of Bizana in the Eastern Cape province on Thursday evening.

The 25 boys were subsequently rushed to the nearby St Peter's hospital.

"The circumcisions had gone wrong in every single case," said Inspector Ngame.

Xhosa tradition

The young men belong to the Xhosa ethnic group, for whom circumcision is part of the passage into manhood.

The operations are usually performed in June and December when South African schools are on holiday.

Doctors have tried to encourage initiation schools to adopt more hygienic techniques, but these are often rejected by village elders as contrary to traditional teachings.

The South African Government is considering legislation that would make a botched circumcision punishable with a prison sentence of up to five years.

See also:

01 Sep 99 | Aids
Circumcision cuts HIV risk
09 Jun 00 | Health
Circumcision cuts HIV risk
18 Jun 99 | Health
Six diseases threaten world
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