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Public hearings on Customary Initiation Bill begin

The proposed law prescribes that no boy under the age of 16 can undergo initiation and also advises on sanctions in instances where there is non-compliance.

FILE: A picture taken on 20 November 2009 of young boys from the Xhosa tribe attending a traditional initiation school in Libode in the Eastern Cape Province. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Parliament has started its public hearings on the Customary Initiation Bill to legislate traditional initiation.

The bill was introduced in Parliament following years of initiation deaths in some provinces like the Eastern Cape.

The proposed law prescribes that no boy under the age of 16 can undergo initiation and also advises on sanctions in instances where there is non-compliance.

Traditional leaders in the Western Cape have welcomed the bill, saying it will go a long way in dealing with initiation deaths.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs portfolio committee chairperson Richard Mdakane says the bill will also cover the initiation of women where it is practised.

“The Khoi and San will be covered too, precisely because they are part and parcel of the broader society and those who are dealing with it, in terms of religious issues, they are covered also. Therefore, every South African will be covered by the bill.”

Clement Williams from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport said: “The only challenge we have is that we don’t have an act or legislation to enforce the system we have."

Lawmakers want the bill passed before the end of the year, in time for the December initiation season.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)