To be a man…

We headed to the east of Uganda with my ATR class, professor and an intern. In a village of Mbale, we would witness the circumcision ceremony of a teenage boy at his home.

The vehicles took us as far as they could manage on the muddy roads. At a police station, we began to trek across the liquid terrain on foot. Eventually, the road was not kind to us- several of the girls slipped and fell- muddying the entire backsides of their skirts. We knew another person had fallen because far ahead of us we could hear peals of laughter.

At the house, a huge crowd gathered and our presence only added to the chaos. We were told by our guide that the men would come running in with the candidate and the cutting would begin.

All of a sudden, men were shouting and pushing each other. From one side of the yard a large group of men ran down into the circle in front of the house where the doctor waited with a knife. Before anyone could blink, the doctor had performed the act- he held up the skin to show the crowd the candidate was now a man.

The whole day raised a lot of questions in my mind about rites of passage. What constitutes being a man or a woman and was this event an acceptable practice? Regardless of my thoughts, this is what the Bagisu tribe practices and refuses to change. It was really memorable to witness it and learn more about such a taboo practice.

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