Circumcision is widely practiced in Sebei region. Eventually amongst men and ladies, nowadays only men. In this blog our guide and cultural expert George explains the facts about circumcision.
When does circumcision take place?
Circumcision only takes place in the even years. So in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 et cetera. However, in 2016 the circumcision ceremonies were cancelled. A tree at Mount Elgon – with a stem in the form of a penis – called Nuguk – was flowering. This is a sign to the Sabiny that is not safe to circumcise. Therefore, this season of 2018 a high number of boys are undergoing the practice. The generation of 2016 did it early, before December. The information about the flowering tree is coming from the elderly people. Most young people don’t know where the tree is located.
Does the practice exist only amongst men or also ladies?
Nowadays, the practice only exists amongst men. Nevertheless, we are still hearing rumors that people in the lower belts are practicing it. They do it secretly, don’t show out, because it is illegal (in 2010 a law against FGM was enforced by the Ugandan government).
What makes the practice important for men?
There are many reasons why the practice is important. First, it is to maintain the culture of Sebei. Secondly, it is a promotion from childhood to adulthood. Thirdly, for respect. And lastly, for cleanliness / health purposes.
Do people cut in the village or hospital?
They do it both sides. The majority of people do it in the village. There are only a few circumcise-rs, real specialists. These are Bugisu and we hire them from Mbale (major town in Eastern Uganda). The local cutting is more expensive than going to the hospital. For boys circumcision is a must, none is against it. Even up to the Ministry of Health. Other tribes are encouraged to do it as well.
Do you think the circumcision practice will ever disappear?
No, because it is a business.
At what age do the Sebei people start circumcision?
That is at the age of 14 and above. If you are already above 20 you are a coward, or you have not been at home, in the views of the people.
Can everyone join a circumcision ceremony?
Yes, it is open. The actual cutting happens in the morning for the Sebei people. Within the villages people are organized in groups. The ceremony must happen three times in a row on the same ground, so for example in 2018, 2020 and 2022. Then there is a shift to another family. When the boys are lined up for the cutting, the age of the parents is considered: the boy with the oldest parent goes first. When you are circumcising two boys from the same family, a boy of another family is put in between them to avoid bad luck.