Even though the World Health Organization does not include South Africa in the list of FGM practicing countries, it has recently been reported that it is practiced among communities living in the north-east of the country.
FGM is one of the cultural practises embedded amongst the Venda community in the north-east of South Africa. At around 8 weeks or less after childbirth, Venda women undergo a cruel traditional ceremony called muthuso during which vaginal flesh of the mother is cut by a traditional healer. The cut flesh is then mixed with black powder and oil and applied on the child’s head to prevent goni (described as a swelling on the back of a child’s head). The Venda people believe that goni can only be cured using the vaginal flesh of the child’s mother.
Women who experienced this procedure stated that they bleed excessively after the ceremony but have nowhere to be treated as there is no postnatal care in Venda. The women therefore use traditional medicine which sometimes leads to death because of insufficient treatment.
Venda community also practises FGM as initiation for girls into womanhood. After the cut, these girls are branded with a mark on their thighs as evidence of having attended the procedure.
Moreover, migrants in South Africa including Sudanese, Nigerian, Somali and other African communities continue practising FGM. The cutters perform the cut illegally in homes, often despite the complaints from the girls, who are then extremely traumatised following the practice.
The World Health Organisation does not list South Africa as a country where FGM is practised and there is no acknowledgment by the government that FGM exists in South Africa.
At most, South Africa enacted secondary legislation which prohibits FGM and the government has engaged in initiatives to eradicate FGM, for example national research and sensitization workshops where FGM is prevalent.