Wednesday, November 14, 2007

'I was forced to kill my baby'

Africa is a continent known for its rich culture and tradition. Millions of people around the world are fascinated with the traditional practices and cultural beliefs African societies possess. However, such practices and beliefs contain elements that simultaneously shock Western communities. An example of this is evident in the terrible use of human body parts for black magic. These body parts are used by magic men, otherwise known as sangomas or muti-men in South Africa, as ingredients in concoctions and traditional medicine’s. The body parts of children are primarily demanded by sangomas as they are believed to be the most potent. Children are therefore brutally murdered and mutilated. Their body parts are either sold to these magic men, or stored.

In South Africa, a young mother named Helen Madide was forced by her husband, a muti-man himself, to kill their child. Her husband believed that his ancestors demanded that both the child and the mother die. According to these ancestors, once the two were dead, he would become rich. The man forced the woman and the child down a path where he then told the mother to hold the baby while he cut its throat. After the baby was dead he began to remove its various limbs and sexual organs. Helen survived the ordeal, however, she is plagued by the fact that she participated in hers child’s brutal death.

Jeffery Mkhonto is a survivor of an attack by gang members who removed his sexual organs. Jeffery was coerced into going to a neighbour’s house to get some food. His neighbour, along with a few other men instead removed his genitals with the intention to sell them later on.

In many cases, the body parts of these children are removed while the child is still alive. This is done as magic/muti men believe that the screams of the child enhance the strength of the magic.
This is a practice that receives little attention from the international community. Investigators believe that it is something that occurs far more frequently than we think. A prominent South African human rights activist states that “… children [go] missing every week from our townships… The assumption is that those missing children are being put into prostitution and also that they are being used for muti murder."
As believers in the ideal that all deserve the protection of their human rights, and that one is entitled to live life free from, what is our responsibility to these victims? The rights of these children are being sickeningly abused. Consider the possibility that these events may very well exist in this society. Consider the notion that everyone is at risk. In this regard, this is something that may happen to you, as well as it may happen to anyone around you. Therefore, we are all affected. What chances does the youth of South Africa, and the youth of the world for that matter, have in building a bright future for themselves?


Andrew said...

I find this article shocking. I always assumed that “child snatchers” were just stories. However, having just read the post I am forced to realize that this horrendous practice actually occurs. This is a violation of human rights and it should be dealt with harshly. It could be considered cultural relativism if a person willing gave up a part of their body, in which case I think an informational approach would be correct. But if people are mutilating others simply for profit than this practice is akin to the slave trade, and must be addressed.

jolz said...

I do agree with Adrian that there is no question that the rights of these African children are being abused and that a small child should not have to live in constant fear of being mutilated especially by his parents for that matter. I, however, disagree with the notion that we are at risk to something like that in this society. Other than the remote incident in Thames London last year, have there been any other possible muti killings outside of the African region and surrounding territories? I am not very familiar with the practice of muti killings and I would be surprised if many other people outside the African culture are.

The real question is, had it not been for the internationally recognized killing of the boy in London would Helen Madide’s story been published? This is where I believe the problem lies. The horrific killing of children in this manner does not directly affect members of our society so many people lack that personal responsibility to act or talk against such practices. Many of us are going to read this article become teary-eyed, express how heart wrenching and gruesome it is and forget about it tomorrow. I believe this is another case of ‘its not my problem let someone else deal with it’. The truth of the matter is that of all of us are obligated to do something about this just by the virtue of belonging to the human race.

The first thing that comes to mind is to create world awareness of this practice but then again I feel like that is the easy route frequently taken by the ‘do-gooder’ to give themselves peace of mind. The final question I pose is how do we take active responsibility against atrocities like muti killings? This is where I am afraid I have hit a frustratingly large brick wall.

terissa said...

My comment draws on our discussion of cultural relativism. To question our own society to the effect that serious issues - such as missing children, mutilation, and murder - are not given much thought or considered to be someone else's problem is, to me, erroneous. Granted, there are those who will nod their heads when they hear of such misfortune and quietly continue about their lives - but what about those who deal with similar issues locally? I'm not trying to start up an argument claiming that there are muti-men in our backyards waiting to snatch up children - but there are those who prey on children in school yards. There are gangs that rob children of their youth and potential. Government road blocks set in place that deter achievements. We may not have a muti-man to point a finger at, but we certainly have troubles that, I think, should be addressed with equal vehemence. Throughout the 19th century into modern times, white women practiced female genital mutilation on their daughters. They typically learned of it from their slave counterparts, and utilized various aspects of FGM to underscore debutante society and perceived notions of femininity. How often have you heard about this charming detail of the South? But who is calling for a revolution?

I would prefer that we first delve into what secret horrors lay hidden within our own country, our own pasts, before we seek to unearth all the telling tales of the world. The true change starts at home.

Tigist said...

This is horrific. The rights of the African children are certainly being violated, but how do we change the views of the society. We can tell them what they are doing is wrong, but who are we to say what is right or wrong. What is happening to these children is horrendous, but how can we change their way of thinking? What do we do to stop this heinous belief?

danielle.ja said...

I agree with Teresa, while human rights vioations such as the use of children's body parts in magic, are occuring in many countries of the world, some of these countries being viewed as backard, we need to recognize the violations occuring in America. Often while them means may be different, these violations are very similar.
Before concerning ourselves with violations occuring in other countries, (if we do not have the resources and capablities to do both), we need to be concerned with the violations occuring here in America. When we have adequately corrected those, then we can turn to helping others.
However, te first step towards correcting human rights violatiions is acknoledging that they occur. We also need to keep this in mind when we consider the genocide occuring in the Darfur region of Sudan.