The popularity of male circumcision worldwide is primarily due to the role of religion, although cultural and health reasons have also been significant factors.
Male circumcision is compulsory for Jews and is commonly practised among Muslims. Christians also circumcise. When circumcision is performed for religious reasons, it usually symbolises faith in God but it may also be done to promote health and hygiene.
Circumcision is also undertaken for cultural reasons. This is not an issue within the West but there are communities within Africa and Asia who continue to practise circumcision. In their eyes, this defines the moment when a boy passes into manhood.
There are tribes within Africa who still practise circumcision as a way of defining a boy’s journey from childhood to manhood. It is seen as a statement of masculinity and a throwing away of any ‘feminine’ aspects.
Circumcision is also performed amongst the Australian aborigines and the peoples of the Fuji islands, Samoa and Tonga. This is also performed as a rite of passage and an act of hygiene. Female circumcision or female genital mutilation is still performed in these communities, often as a form of hygiene or a means of preserving a girl’s virginity before her wedding night.
Circumcision which is performed for religious or cultural reasons is known as ‘non-therapeutic’ or ritual circumcision.
Circumcision might have various health benefits, including:
- Easier hygiene. Circumcision makes it simpler to wash the penis. However, boys with uncircumcised penises can be taught to wash regularly beneath the foreskin.
- Decreased risk of urinary tract infections. The risk of urinary tract infections in males is low, but these infections are more common in uncircumcised males. Severe infections early in life can lead to kidney problems later.
- Decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections. Circumcised men might have a lower risk of certain sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Still, safe sexual practices remain essential.
- Prevention of penile problems. Occasionally, the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis can be difficult or impossible to retract (phimosis). This can lead to inflammation of the foreskin or head of the penis.
- Decreased risk of penile cancer. Although cancer of the penis is rare, it’s less common in circumcised men. In addition, cervical cancer is less common in the female sexual partners of circumcised men.
The risks of not being circumcised, however, are not only rare but avoidable with proper care of the penis.
Author: Gesture Chidhanguro