African Press International (API)

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On circumscision in Kenya: Raila states the need to have the cut and get healthier

Posted by African Press International on August 24, 2008

To all,

I have always thought of circumcision as disrespect of genital integrity. It doesnt matter to me whether its done for cultural or religious or medical or personal reasons. I will accept this denigration of the male tool only if ones life is in danger and the only way to save that life is to get the cut. I am inclined to accept that Prime Minister Hon. Raila Odinga believed that the lives of boys in Kenya is in danger and one of the ways to save them is to get cut. Considering the weight that words from leaders of Hon. Odingas status carry, we must move very quickly to review the scientific report Hon. Odinga is referring to and determine if we can reach the same conclusion. After a sober and scientific review of the research we can get back to the PM and inform him that the data is correct, faulty or need more research. I am disappointed that we do not have leading medical professionals on the ground addressing this issue.

The hue and cry directed at Jakoms call is amusing considering those who are making the loudest noise. I can state confidently that one out of every three people who commented on this call is either cut or are the parents of a cut boy. Elite (for lack of better word) Luos have been cutting their children as far back as the sixties and the number has increased every year. When the wazungus left, the Luos became the wazungus of Kenya and if you follow this group you will be astounded by the sheer number of cut men and boys in their lineage. Wazungu did another number on us again when they handed us the Bible and buried our cultural practices each time we open a verse in the Bible. As a result, the Luos have become private pracitioners of some of their cultures but very publi c noise makers for other cultures they dont even practice. Many Luo mothers or Kenyan women in general have been convinced by their OB/GYN to get their boys cut and this is a wide spread practice by those who deliver in hospitals. Women from tribes that cut for cultural reasons will gladly get their boys cut in the hospital as opposed to facing the knife in some bush. Others have even persuaded their husbands and boyfriends to go for the cut to get rid of the white thing under the foreskin. Many Luo male parents do not even know that their wives arranged to have their new born boys cut because they do not visit the maternity wards or get close enough to the infants to examine the tools. In some cases the teen age boys decide to do this on their own due to the influence of girlfriends and male friends, both Luo and non-Luo. The days Luo boys used to go bathe in the lakes and rivers with their fathers or age mates are long gone. No cut Luowould dare jump in the water in those days in the glare of their age mates. Nowadays these boys and men have bathrooms in their homes and can keep their secret from just about anybody.

Rushing to cry foul for the Luo culture is misplaced because Luo culture have been neglected by the same Luos who are now reacting with rage. Why are we all of sudden ready to fight for our culture when it comes to tero nyange (getting cut) but we are ready to let go our culture of tero mon (Wife inheritance is not tero mon but lets leave that for another day) yet both involve HIV/AIDS? How many Luos here have ever made a courtesy call on Ker Riaga Omolo or responded to his call about the same issue? Ker Riaga is opposed to the cut but there was no rush to support him. At the last funeral you attended in Luoland what was your reaction to jobul (traditional drummers) and did you hear any oporo/tung (cow horn blowing) at all? Did you consider tero buch baba (taking away bad spirit from the home) or did you golo ywak jaduong (announcing the death of a male elder) after sun down or in the morning? Did you tero ayie (money to ask for parent s acceptance of intended marriage) by western union or sent your family with cows to your wifes home? Have you actually paid dowry for your wife after so many years of marriage? Let us not deal selectively with Luo culture, we need to be serious about it and provide support for its preservation.

The Luos have not done a very good job of teaching their children about the Luo culture. Occasionally you will find yourself arguing with some Luos on cultural issues and you begin to wonder if they are really Luos or where they get the information. Internet has been the home of arguements that is not in line with what is actually taking place on the ground. You will only find a few Luos who have a clear understanding of what tero mon is all about. Many have jumped on the NGO labeling of it as wife inheritance and the number one contributor of HIV/AIDS. Complete nonesense. We will only be good defenders of the Luo culture when we learn, practice and support it. Naming your children Achunga, Ojiko, Ogingais notgood enough, even feedingthem omena, mariawa, osuga will not do it. You must teach them about Luo and let them see you practising Luo cultures.This is where I have failed and I believe there are many like me in a nd ouside luoland.

We should take note that the statement by the Prime Minister was directed at boys, ”I am taking the challenge of calling upon elders in the Teso, Luo and Turkana communities to ensure people embrace circumcision of boys, although it has not been part of their culture,” My interpretation is that he was avoiding a mass exodus by men to the cutting tables by not addressing them directly This is because men will rush to get cut then rush to have unprotected sex believing that they are now safe. The end result of that is an increase in HIV cases and death. A boy on the other hand is a male child still under the guidance of men/women and would not rush to get a cut without permission. A very small percent of this under 15 years age group engage in unprotected sex and for those who do, their number is not included in the calculation of the HIV prevalence in Kenya by WHO. Each of us here will testify that many boys have sex and many have HIV but the number is too low to show up on the HIV radar.

Statistics show that more cut Kenyans carry the HIV virus than the uncut. The math is very simple, 1.5 million Kenyans have the virus and HIV prevalence is only 10% in Nyanza province as per WHO. This fixation with cutting residents of Nyanza province will not make any dent in the number of HIV cases. Even if every male in Nyanza province were to get cut, the number of HIV cases amongst the cut will always be higher than the cases amongst the uncut. The big secret in Kenya is that the cut people already know that the cut does not protect them from the virus. That is why there is no explosion of circumcision ceremonies among the tribes that practice it. This is only a story because of the prominence of Prime Minister Hon. Raila Odinga.

In the though I may be right, In the though I may be wrong, Akuot Diri Nyawanga.

By Nyanja



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