Among some African tribes, child genital cutting, or circumcision, has been practiced for millennia. All tribes that circumcise girls also circumcise boys; but in patriarchal tribes, only boys are deemed worthy of the cut. Among the Bagisu, boys become men by way of imbalu. These ceremonies take place in August of even-numbered years.

Despite notoriously high HIV rates among the Bagisu people, Western public health agencies are endorsing imbalu male circumcision ceremonies as an HIV-preventive measure. International funding bodies are providing disposable knives and direct support to medicalise the Bagisu blood rite.*

Pius Nambale, leader of the Bamasaba Students Association at Kyambogo University, joins us at the 2016 inaugural imbalu ceremony at Mutoto. He explains how false messaging from the circumcision campaign has exacerbated the HIV problem in the region:

money  payment

*The World Health Organisation strongly condemns parallel initiation rituals for girls, as well as the medicalisation of female circumcision, “for example when parents ask health providers to conduct [it] because they think it will be less harmful.” See African Women Are Free to Choose (AWA-FC)’s 2009 statement on the West’s double-standard between men’s and women’s initiation rites.