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Initiation rituals in South Africa tied to 60 deaths

JOHANNESBURG — Initiation ceremonies in South Africa have led to the deaths of 60 young men and the hospitalization of hundreds since May, sparking concern from officials about regulations surrounding a national tradition that determines when a boy becomes a man.

The most recent deaths in the Eastern Cape province occurred primarily at illegal “initiation schools” set up for financial benefits, health minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

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‘‘This practice has been there for ages and was performed by traditional leaders in a very responsible manner,’’ Motsoaledi told state TV this week. ‘‘But now it has turned into a commercial enterprise .’’

Thirty initiates have died within the month and 300 have also been hospitalized, a government health spokesman said. Ten of those young men were rescued with badly scarred genitals from botched circumcisions while the others were hospitalized for dehydration and various wounds.

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