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Koers

On-line version ISSN 0023-270X

Abstract

VENTER, M.A.. Some views of Xhosa women regarding the initiation of their sons. Koers (Online) [online]. 2011, vol.76, n.3, pp. 559-575. ISSN 0023-270X.

Notwithstanding attempts from the Eastern Cape Department of Health and other organisations to regulate the process of initiation, each year initiates still die or are mutilated. The challenge is to keep the boys safe without interfering with the traditional customs. It appears that women's voices are rarely heard on this issue. Through a literature review the author attempts to understand the rite of initiation from a cultural perspective. The general meaning and specific usage of concepts such as 'culture', 'traditional', and 'masculinity' are explained, as well as how these concepts are used in the article. A questionnaire was designed and administered to establish the views of Xhosa women on the ritual of initiation. On comparing these results with results from previous research, it shows a decline in the number of women who favour the traditional way of initiation without medical intervention. Although this indicates a shift in women's views, a conflict is evident, as there is still overwhelming agreement that traditional initiation is a prerequisite for becoming a man who is respected by his community. The empirical research indicates that although women are forbidden to take part in discussions on this subject, some women did take the liberty to express their opinions.

Keywords : initiation; Xhosa male initiation; Xhosa rites of manhood; Xhosa tradition; Xhosa women's views regarding initiation of boys.

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