Every two years, tens of thousands of Ugandans come together in celebration for a mass adult circumcision festival. The Bugisu tribe in the east of the country gather around Mbale and up to 20,000 young boys – usually around 18 years old – get the snip. There is no anaesthetic or sterilisation and often blunt butter knives are used, as shown in the video above. After the cutting, the boys must bear the pain to prove themselves. Most young men are proud to be part of the ceremony as it marks their entry into manhood.
Advocates have tried to promote the practice as a Christian tradition, citing passages from the Old Testament. However, the New Testament makes it clear that circumcision is unnecessary.
My travel buddy Dave and I were lucky enough to get a great view of the tribal spectacle by climbing on top of a Pepsi truck. Just as we thought the craziness was over, and were headed home to Budaka, I was surrounded by an impromptu ceremony in the Mbale’s town centre. In exchange for a few thousand shillings I was allowed to continue filming – however, the procedure went wrong and you can see that, rather than the tip being removed, the entire shaft was skinned. We never found out if the guy survived, but discovered that some procedures lead to lasting injury or death as hospitals are not easily accessible.
Female circumcision also used to be widespread but is now illegal – there are plans to outlaw male circumcision too, as unhygienic practices have promoted HIV/AIDS.
Click to view