Male Circumcision Central to Woman’s Master’s Degree
Ms Sinekekelwa Khumalo graduated with a MASocSc (cum laude) in Anthropology with her research concentrated on male circumcision.
Khumalo’s thesis was titled: “Probing Male Students’ Perception towards Medical Male Circumcision against Traditional Male Circumcision”.
According to Khumalo, male circumcision is a rite of passage in many communities, and one steeped in tradition and cultural norms and expectations.
‘Medical male circumcision is a more recently initiated procedure that is promoted in sub-Saharan Africa as part of the battery of HIV and AIDS preventative strategies meant to aid in combating the spread of the pandemic,’ she said. ‘The Higher Education institutional space is seen as one for experimental and risky sexual behaviour. Male university students in turn comprise an important community in interventions against HIV and AIDS and medical male circumcision is seen as one such intervention,’ said Khumalo.
Her supervisor, Professor Maheshvari Naidu, said Khumalo’s study sought to shed light on male students’ understanding of the ‘benefits’ of medical male circumcision or MMC.
Her findings revealed that while some students saw the benefits of medical circumcision in the context of reducing susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and AIDS, others believed that they were ‘immune’ and would not contract the disease due to being medically circumcised, compounding and placing the male students and their partners at serious risk.
‘I am thrilled that her hard work and determination has paid off,’ said Naidu.
Naidu said that Sina (as she is popularly known) blossomed from a shy, soft spoken student into a confident young scholar, all the while retaining her quiet and respectful disposition.
‘It has not been an easy journey for her. Aside from immense financial constraints, there was much initial self-doubting. Sina came to me from another supervisor and the initial proposal phase was a period of intellectual back and forth,’ said Naidu.
For Khumalo, it was initially a rollercoaster of a year. ‘One of the personal challenges that I had to overcome was self-doubt and fear that I could not finish my master’s in a year. I think I did not believe in myself at first and I had to push myself. But the support I had from my supervisor, friends and family made it easier for me to overcome what I thought were my personal limitations.’
Khumalo had to forge through personal crises during her studies - her father’s illness and her intense worry when her mother became gravely ill. ‘My mother has been my rock and my number one cheerleader. I would come back from the library tired and down, but somehow she found a way to push me. She believed in me more than I did, which is why I dedicate this master’s to her.
‘My supervisor, Professor Naidu, has also been more than a supervisor to me. She has been both a mother and a mentor. She saw potential in me and nurtured it patiently.’
Khumalo is currently working part time as Research intern for the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). She plans to register for her PhD with Naidu this year. ‘I just want to flourish as an anthropology researcher.’