Circumcision is a minor operation that is performed to remove the foreskin (Morris, 1). It is the oldest enigma in the history of surgery, flowing from tribal rituals into the modern medicine through the world’s great religions (Gollaher, 9). Circumcision is a common practice in the Near East, on Africa’s west coast, the pigmies of central Africa, the Abyssinian Christians, the Malay peninsula, all over Polynesia, Madagascar and parts of North (Chippewa Native Americans), Central and even foci in South America (Aufderheide, 46). Circumcision can be performed on both males and females bodies. However, the purposes, benefits and harms are different depending on the sex of the human.
Analysis of female circumcision
Female circumcision involves the cutting or removing of the labia minora and majora, clitoral hood, and clitoris, or parts of these (Marshall Cavendish, 125). Simple circumcision, known as Sunna circumcision, presupposes the cutting of the clitoral prepuce and is analogous to male circumcision. Infibulation, known as Pharaonic one, involves the removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and majora, and the mons veneris. The vagina is then sewn shut except for a small opening to permit the exit of urine and menstrual blood (Favazza, 191). It most often occurs in Muslim societies in Sudan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Malaysia. It is a very old procedure and the current practice has been running for about 200 years. It developed in protest against European changes in sexual morals and behavior (Worell, 297).
There are different purposes on which this procedure is performed. Although male circumcision is mainly performed for religious reasons, because it is described in Holy Books, female circumcisions is performed mainly for the social purpose. This procedure serves to preserve virginity and chastity. In some countries it symbolizes cleanliness and beauty. Moreover, it allows women to be marriageable (in some countries only circumcised women can marry) (Worell, 297). The aim of this procedure is to prevent women from committing adultery and premarital sexual intercourse (Aufderheide, 47). Moreover, some women report becoming sexually responsive and more orgasmic after infibulations (Worell, 297).
On the other hand, the number of disadvantages is more significant than the number of advantages. The biggest disadvantages are bleeding, infection, scaring, difficult births, unusual gynecologic problems and ethical quandaries (Abusharaf, 4). Because of the side effects, the WHO banned the practice of infibulations in the 1980s. However, it made this procedure hidden and more dangerous. Moreover, infibulated women find it difficult to locate health care practitioners who can address their sexual, menstrual cycle, pregnancy and childbirth needs (Worell, 297). In my opinion, in addition to all the abovementioned disadvantages, the most significant argument against female circumcision is the idea that we must respect all parts of children’s body because we do not know for which purposes they serve.
Analysis of male circumcision
Male circumcision involves the surgical removal of the foreskin (also known as the prepuce) of the penis (Marshall Cavendish, 127). It is done for different purposes. Some people perform it to change the appearance of the penis to match the parents’ preferences. Others undergo this procedure because of Jewish or other religious custom. Jews perform it on the eighth day after birth. Muslims also follow this tradition. However, they are circumcised seven days after birth. In Indonesia, boys typically undergo this procedure being from 5 to 18 years old. For the rest, the most significant purpose is hygiene. These people perform circumcision mainly to reduce the need for careful washing later in life. However, if proper hygiene and bathing practices are used, circumcision is not necessary to prevent and avoid penile health problems (Simkin, 285: Cavendish, 127-128).
Circumcision provides males with some benefits, such as protection against sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, human immunodeficiency virus, phimosis and penile cancer. For example, uncircumcised men are proved to have from 2 to 8 times greater risk of human immunodeficiency virus transmission as compared to circumcised ones (Cavendish, 128). Although circumcision may lessen the risk of adult penile cancer and the transmission of sexual infections to sex partners, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend routine neonatal circumcision (Edlin, 191). It is also necessary to take into consideration the age at which the procedure is carried out. It is medically proved that boys who undergo this procedure at the age of 12 are likely to have greater protection than those who are circumcised in the childhood (Cavendish, 128).
On the other hand, there are many potential harms and risks of circumcision. The first one is excessive bleeding. It occurs in one in every 1000 infant circumcisions. The second disadvantage is the risk of infection. Local infections occur in from 1 to 10 out of every 1000 men. Systemic infections may appear in 1 out of 4000 and they require special treatment. The third possible challenge is the risk of subsequent surgery. It may be needed because of the skin bridges (penile glandular adhesions) or the removal of too much or too little foreskin. The fourth disadvantage is local anaesthetic. One out of four infants always has a small bruise at the injection site of a dorsal penile nerve block after the operation. The fifth disadvantage is the risk of death. The records show that between 1954 and 1989 three deaths were caused by this procedure in the USA (Morris, 22-23). However, in my opinion the biggest disadvantage of this procedure for both male and female is not physical harm, but mental challenge. As for me, every person has to have right to choose whether to be circumcised or not. Otherwise, it may adversely affect the mental health of a person.
Male and female circumcision is widely spread worldwide. It serves the different religious and social purposes. However, everyone should pay attention to its benefits as well as to its disadvantages and consider all the pros and cons accurately.