Circumcision - Procedure, Benefits, Cost and Types of Circumcisions

A Heated Controversy

Perhaps the most controversial of all practices involving newborns is that of the circumcision of boy babies. There are different types of circumcision, those that are religiously anchored, those that are done culturally, and then those that are performed due to the belief in the prevention of disease or illness. However, baby circumcision is predominantly performed for cultural or religious reasons. In the Jewish faith, male babies are circumcised on the eighth day of life in accordance with a command given to the Jewish people in the Torah. To this day, the brit milah, or circumcision, is performed as a sign of the covenant God made between Israel and Himself. However, there is also a desire to halt male circumcision in Judaism based on the pain caused to infants during the process. If done surgically in a medical setting, it is a very disturbing procedure as the baby is strapped down to a table and the procedure is done in this fashion. When done in a religious setting by a person who is practiced and trained in the procedure, the baby is held and the procedure is done quickly and without a long period of painful strapping.

Cultural and Religious Practice of Circumcision

Circumcision procedures vary with the situation. There are indigenous groups all over the world who circumcise their young males, although the age of the child may vary with the group. Circumcision as a religious practice is done in the Middle East, the Philippines, South America, Africa, and other countries. As a cultural practice, circumcision was adopted at the end of the Second World War as a regular neonatal practice in English speaking countries, including England, the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. Arguments in favor of circumcision benefits indicate they outweigh the risks, have no substantial effects on sexual function, they are low in complications when done properly by an experienced person, and is best performed in the neonatal period of life. The opposing arguments against it are that circumcision adversely affects penile function and sexual pleasure and that the performing of it is based upon medical myths. These arguments maintain that it is extremely painful and is a violation of human rights.

Positive Effects of Circumcision for HIV/AIDS

However, the World Health Organization (WHO; 2007), the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS; 2007) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 2008) state that evidence indicates male circumcision significantly reduces the risk of HIV acquisition by men during penile-vaginal sex, but also state that circumcision only provides partial protection and should not replace other interventions to prevent transmission of HIV. (Wikipedia)

Since circumcision is no longer done as a regular practice, there is a cost involved in the process. Costs vary with the doctor or religious society involved. To view circumcision in both medical and cultural settings, there are many videos online as well as books available on the subject. To be sure, it is a subject that draws intense emotional response, regardless the position taken.

Female Circumcision

Another type of circumcision is female circumcision, more generally known as female genital cutting (FGC) or female genital mutilation (FGM). This procedure involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs. FGM is almost exclusively used to describe traditional or religious procedures on a minor, which requires the parents' consent because of the age of the girl. (Wikipedia)

There is strong opposition worldwide to this practice citing the fact that there is no concern for the consent of the girls, nor is there concern for the safety and long-term consequences of the procedures. In the past several decades, there have been many concerted efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO) to end the practice of FGM. The United Nations has declared February 6 as "International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation". (Wikipedia)

What FGM Really Does

According to Hamid Rushwan, Chief Executive of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), "Death, severe pain, hemorrhage, tetanus, sepsis, recurrent urinary tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, increased complications of subsequent pregnancy and childbirth, and adverse psychological and sexual effects - these are just a few examples of the extreme consequence of female genital mutilation (FGM)".

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