f it was not for the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the world and leaving a trail of death, sickness and fear, the question of whether the circumcision of the young boys in the Bukusu, Tachoni, Batura, Banyala communities in our region that takes place in August of every even year wouldn’t be an issue for deliberation or consideration as to whether it should or it should not take place this year.
The history of these communities shows clearly that the ritual has been interrupted or postponed before in the face of mortal danger facing the communities like war or pestilence and disease like what we face in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, a disease with no known cure and equally whose spread and containment remains elusive.
The elders of the Bukusu, Tachoni, Batura Communities in June 2020, made a public pronouncement that the ritual has been postponed for 2020 due to COVID-19. This July there have been contrary voices from sections of traditional circumcisers that the initiation ceremony will go ahead. Some of the elders who had made the announcement on the postponement seem to be retracting and suggesting the initiation goes ahead because some lockdown measures have been eased by the Government of Kenya.
West Media submits that the National Government, County Governments of Bungoma, Kakamega, Busia and Trans Nzoia where the circumcision was largely set to happen this August 2020, must convene a stakeholders meeting of medical doctors from the affected communities (not those who do not circumcise), the knowledgeable respected elders of the affected communities, the circumcisers and other key stakeholders to soberly review the advisability, practicality and risks that such circumcision of young boys faces in view of COVID-19,and a decision be made whether it ought to be permitted or called off. This is very urgent.
There are issues of life and death in this circumcision exercise, and it cannot and will not be a matter of a few elders and circumcisers to decide what ought to be done. It will be a dereliction of the National Government and County Governments Constitutional duties on life and health, to safeguard the welfare of the boys involved, to look aside and say it is culture and the individual choice of a parent.
Some parents may not be sufficiently informed on the risks involved. Elected leaders may become cowardly. The boys are children and can’t make informed decisions. The bearer of the highest risk is the individual boy and not the father or the circumciser. The boy is a minor, a child. The state has say on his wellbeing.
The fact of the circumcision is a matter of health and it has a bearing on the availability of medical facilities, God forbid if the boys circumcised both at home and hospital were to be afflicted with sickness of whatever nature be it COVID-19 or any other disease.
West Media is persuaded that with COVID-19 ravaging the world and our region, it will be suicidal, taking the most reckless risk for the affected communities to imagine, let alone go along with the ritual. Yes nothing may go wrong, BUT, what if it went wrong? Who will bear the criminal consequences of deaths arising from the exercise? And how will that bearing of the risk repair any damage or at worst, loss of life? If the region could, during the Second World War postpone a circumcision cycle, what can be more compelling than a pandemic with no cure?
The National Government and County Governments must come clear on this issue before 25th July 2020 to avoid any confusion on the matter.