Original Research

Voluntary medical male circumcision versus religio-cultural circumcision and initiation rites: The case of Varemba of Mwenezi district in response to the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in Zimbabwe

Onias Matumbu, Vengesai Chimininge
Theologia Viatorum | Vol 43, No 1 | a3 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/tv.v43i1.3 | © 2019 Onias Matumbu, Vengesai Chimininge | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 May 2019 | Published: 31 October 2019

About the author(s)

Onias Matumbu, Department of Religion, Classics and Philosophy, School of Religion and Social Transformation, University of Kwazulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; and, Department of Family Religion and Moral Education, Faculty of Humanities, Morgan ZINTEC College, Harare, Zimbabwe
Vengesai Chimininge, Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom; and, Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Culture and Heritage Studies, Zimbabwe Open University, Harare, Zimbabwe


Male circumcision has long been associated with religious or cultural rituals which bestow culturally valuable status. In some communities, circumcision is believed to provide concomitant access to economic and spiritual resources such as land and the ability to communicate with the ancestors. However, the recent promotion of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) in 2009 as an additional dimension for reducing the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was received with mixed feelings by different people in Zimbabwe. The resistance was more pronounced in those districts where male circumcision was a traditional norm. It is considering this background where this article examines whether VMMC and religio-cultural male circumcision are distant cousins or siamese twins. This is performed by taking a leaf from the Varemba of Mwenezi district in Zimbabwe. Data collection was performed between May and October 2017 using in-depth individual interviews within the context of the hermeneutics paradigm which emphasises the existence of multiple realities across time and culture. Our analysis of data shows that the Varemba of Mwenezi district does not believe in the efficacy of VMMC because it is void of the ritualistic cultural–spiritual dimension that usually accompanies male circumcision. The study recommended that VMMC should contextualise the cultural value to achieve set targets for HIV prevention.


voluntary medical male circumcision; religio-cultural male circumcision; HIV and AIDS; Varemba; Zimbabwe


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