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Pros and cons of the circumcision debate

By Ngozi Ezeji, RN

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.com and The Black Business Journal

The issue of circumcision has continued to generate a long and wide range of debate and controversy across the world. In this first of my three part series, I will offer an overview of the issue of circumcision and the perceptions of different groups and organizations. This debate focuses on whether to circumcise male and female children or not.

Different persons and groups offer different perspectives deriving from what schools of thought and culture they emanate. Some are of the view that "young males, should not be circumcised until they are of age when that decision will be of their own." As if this is not enough, every now and again, circumcision has being a concern to either the religious groups, parents, organizations, and the medical professionals.

Circumcision is clinically defined as the removal of the sleeve of skin and mucosal tissue that normally covers the glans {head} of the penis. It is sometimes called the prepuce, but more commonly known as the foreskin in the male children.

On the human rights front, the child's foreskin is a healthy, natural part of his body, and when he becomes of age, he may prefer not to be circumcised. Leaving your baby‚s foreskin alone preserves his right to a whole and intact body. We need to reflect back on Article V of the United Nations on Universal Declaration of Human Rights "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." Physicians, who routinely practice circumcisions are violating the first Maxim of Medical Practice "First, Do No Harm."

Depending on how each group views it, they come up differently with their answers and the more sense it makes to them, the more controversial it becomes and though it may have many definitions to it, but to a lay-person, it means the surgical removal of the foreskin. This type of surgical procedure, have received different meaning and names from some organizations across the world. Some called it "the barbarity of circumcision", while others classified it as "type 1 genital mutilation."

It has been accepted by majority in the society that the disadvantages of circumcision is more than the advantages. Still some people do it for different reasons, derived from religious beliefs which can be traced back to times in the Holy Book. This norm or practice are also observed in the Jewish religion where all males are required to be circumcised. Some writers have also described it as "universal circumcision as a sanitary measure" to a Jew - and for some, it seems a part of their convenant with God. Others are for cultural and social purposes.

Where most fathers would not like their sons to look or feel different from the way they look, or will not like other kids tease them, or their sons feeling different in the "locker room" if not circumcised. In the medical and healthcare profession, circumcision has remained controversial. In fact, some specialist have written some disturbing, very critical reports and for or against, some have argued that it makes the male reproductive organ the penis "cleaner and easier to keep clean," reduces risk of infection, and risk of penile cancer. While there has being contradictory evidence based on research literatures done, one on infection; seems the strongest of the medical claims. Some experts, have stated that this procedure robs male of adequate sensation of their male organ. But as with so many medical decisions, patients are the always the center of focus, and I would hope that parents will be well informed and understand the risks of the procedure, the complications and its validity.

While most people may see this as an important issue, some don't even lose any sleep over circumcision. At the end of the day, the question most parents ask is if we need legislation for circumcision? Is it an abuse of anyone's rights? Is it proper and accepted by such cultures as find it acceptable that others should respect same?

Until we have answer to that, most observers believe that circumcision will remain primarily a religious and cultural issue, not as a practice to be incorporated into the mainstream of medicine, and that the final decision rests on the parents of the child.
Mrs. Ezeji, a registered nurse, is based in Houston, Texas. Her commentary on this issue will appear in the October 30 edition of USAfrica The newspaper. She plans other essays, exclusively, for USAfrica.

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Index of Founder's Notes (1)

Index of Founder's Notes (2)

Index of other Viewpoints USAfricaonline contributors and columnists on the issues