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South African Initiation Rites Already Has 23 Fatalities

Update Date: May 17, 2013 01:17 PM EDT

Reaching maturity and becoming a man is often a time for celebrations. While for some families, a dinner or a party is enough, other cultures have initiation traditions that could be doing more harm than good for these young men. According spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Hlathi, there are currently 22 murder cases with the possibility of a 23rd one involving the youth of the northeastern province of Mpumalanga in South Africa. These deaths are currently linked to the initiation ceremonies that incorporate numerous activities testing a young man's abilities lasting over three weeks. These activities are often very dangerous. Fulfilling these activities allow boys the rite of passage into adulthood. Since it is a part of tradition, nearly 30,000 young boys have signed up this year alone.

These thousands of boys are put under intense and horrible conditions so that they can prove their manliness. For example, the boys are forced to become circumcised, a procedure that can lead to infections and death. Other popular tasks involve passing survival tests. One survival test exposes the youth to cold winters without decent clothing. Their faces are painted red and they are only given herbal concoctions while they fight through the cold to survive.

Although initiation rites have been a part of the South African history, the 23 reported deaths have occurred within just the first nine days. This number is apparently the highest number of recorded deaths in this province, breaking the previous record of eight. The drastic increase in deaths suggests that something might have changed in the initiation process, making survival harder. However, since the causes of death have not been released, officials are not sure what caused the elevated numbers of deaths this year.

In the meantime, the government spokewoman, Phumla Willians reported that condolences have been sent out to families who lost a loved one. Williams also called for people to find less dangerous ways of initiation to prevent unfortunate deaths.

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