Medical male circumcision and Xhosa masculinities: Tradition and transformation
Mdedetyana, Lubabalo Sheperd
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This research study investigates Xhosa men’s perceptions of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) in Khayelitsha township (Cape Town). It explored whether the introduction of VMMC as a state HIV-prevention strategy had engendered shifts in constructions of masculinity and negative perceptions of men who had undergone VMMC. Previously traditional male circumcision (ulwaluko) was the preferred form of circumcision among amaXhosa and medical male circumcision (MMC) was viewed as alien to Xhosa culture. Xhosa-speaking men who had undergone MMC were stigmatised by peers and viewed as not being ‘real men’. VMMC has the potential to shift constructions of masculinity based on circumcision status. An ethnographic research study was carried out using qualitative research methods, including participant observation, individual interviews and focus group discussions. Data collection occurred over a 6-month period in the Mandela Park community, at Michael Maphongwana Clinic, and at a male initiation school. The study found that ulwaluko remains a definitive marker of masculine Xhosa identity and is still informed by culture and tradition. Despite VMMC, men who undergo ulwaluko continue to perceive men who choose MMC as ‘the other’ and not as ‘real men’. The study highlighted that VMMC advocates need to take cognisance of traditional notions of masculinity and address negative perceptions of men in Xhosa-speaking communities who have undergone VMMC.