Circumcision among males dates back to as early as the time of ancient Egypt where, historians attest, the oldest recorded evidence of circumcision was found.
Male circumcision is a process in which the foreskin from the penis is cut. The word circumcision actually originates from the Latin words ‘circum' (around) and "cadere" (to cut). It is believed to have started as a religious ritual in which a young boy's passage from boyhood to manhood was celebrated through circumcision, which was originally regarded as a way of boosting his virility and increasing his appeal to women. Other than those beliefs, circumcision was also considered as a way to temper a boy's sexual desire especially during his adolescent stage.
In today's modern times, there are varying reasons why circumcision is encouraged among males:
- It helps in the maintenance of genital hygiene because it prevents dirt from accumulating inside the foreskin. When remained uncut, the foreskin can collect dirt around the tip of the penis. This, according to medical experts, can cause infection and irritation on the penis itself.
- According to the World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, circumcision among males trims down the danger of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases by men when they engage in vaginal sex. However, these same organizations have warned that such protection is not absolute and other methods of AIDS and venereal disease prevention should still be employed to avoid spread of the disease.
It should be understood however that despite the wide practice of circumcision all over the world, there are standing oppositions against this practice:
- Some people believe it can affect the sexual function of a man. It is also claimed that its pain can cause trauma when circumcision is done on a young boy.
- There are several Christian groups that believe circumcision is actually associated with pagan practices since the first people who initiated this practice during the ancient time were themselves pagan.
- Circumcision, when done on infants and young children is a human rights violation because the innocent child has no power or capacity to make his own personal choice between circumcision and non-circumcision.
In some countries like the United States, Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, circumcision of infants upon birth (neonatal circumcision) is widely practiced. This practice has been influenced by a prevalent theory in the 1900s in which the human body was projected as a medium for disease causing germs and bacteria and therefore every possible means of prevention was done to ward off dreaded germs. Body secretions such as that coming from genital organs were suspected to be sources of these germs and so the penis was perceived to be a dirty organ of the body especially because of its fluid secretions. Hence, circumcision was looked into as a means to prevent germs from staying and possibly multiplying in the penis.
Take note: In view of the latest issue on human rights violation in the case of circumcision among infants, the American Medical Association made an announcement in 1999 that neonatal circumcision is performed only in the United States when the parents are properly informed about their choices and have consequently given their consent.