City Press deserves to be commended for publishing the full page spread, entitled “Focus on Circumcision” (06/07/08, p.14) by journalists Piet Rampedi and Phumza Sokana. The feature generates debate around traditional laws and customs which cover running circumcision schools and related legislation that governs circumcision in the Limpopo and the Eastern Cape provinces.

The feature includes a range of articles which look at the issue of circumcision from a number of angles, and use a range of sources. This helps to provide balanced and informative coverage of the issue.

For example, “Limpopo abuzz as 300 initiation schools flourish”, covers the positive values and contribution of the schools including teaching respect, good behavior, morals and discipline.

Two other articles look at some of the problems with initiation schools and practices.

“Traditional classes wreak havoc with education timetables”, highlights the potential impact on education, accessing a man whose education had been adversely affected by the time spent away from school.

“Winter of death as bodies pile up” highlights some of the dangers and risks of circumcision, such as loss or damage of genitalia, in relation to certain illegal and dangerous practices.

The feature places the problems into context, for example, in terms of the practices of particular and illegal initiation schools, and highlights relevant legislation. In doing so it draws attention to loop holes in legislation, and apparent lack of enforcement.

One of the articles, “Circumcision and HIV are not linked”, summarises the results of research conducted by the department of health into the link between circumcision and HIV/AIDS, which found that the two were not linked. This tackles the myth associated with circumcision, that circumcised men have lower chances of contracting HIV.

A range of sources have been used in the feature including traditional leaders, government officials as well as ordinary people, all giving their views on circumcision schools, with a Contralesa member saying that only surgeons who participated in traditional circumcision ritual are allowed to perform the circumcision. This shows that the subject has been well-researched.

While the feature is exemplary, lack of children’s views overshadows the beauty of the feature. Given that the topic is one which directly affects children, who are the participants, they could have been accessed for their views and experiences.