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A critical analysis of the religio-cultural understanding of male circumcision as a health asset among the Xhosa within Eastern Cape.

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Male circumcision is a significant practice within the Xhosa culture which is understood as part of what constitutes manhood and also equips men to become responsible within their families and communities. The purpose of this study is to analyze the extent to which the traditional practice of male circumcision can be considered a health asset for the Xhosa people. Therefore, using notions and principles of African Religious Health Assets (ARHA) as a theoretical framework, this study employed an interpretive methodological approach to analyse written works on traditional male circumcision and other relevant literature to respond to its objective. The study showed that traditional male circumcision and related practices can be considered an invaluable religio-cultural health asset based on the kind of education and formation that young men receive in the initiation processes leading to the circumcision itself. Despite the health risks involved in the initiation practices, they enable the community to produce responsible family and community men, as well as men who have been taught acceptable hygiene etiquette. However, for a more effective utilization of this asset and in order to curb some of the risks and problems associated with it, it is advisable that the church in Southern Africa re-examine its position on the issue and be more actively involved as opposed to their current more passive status.


M.A. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2013.


Religion and culture--Eastern Cape., Circumcision--Eastern Cape--Religious aspects., Xhosa (African people)--Health and hygiene--Eastern Cape., Xhosa (African people)--Eastern Cape--Religious life and customs., Theses--Theology