Circumcision: Science or Superstition?
“There is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised,” God commands Abraham , the Jewish patriarch (Genesis 17:11). “Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” Jesus revised guidance by saying circumcision of no avail (Romans 2:25-29).
All three Abrahamic faiths (less so for Christianity) believe in circumcision. It is believed that if the male child had no circumcision, something negative would happen to the boy or the child would not be “saved.” Contrary to such beliefs, circumcision is not a practice in Dharmic traditions. Hindu sages would probably have labeled it Himsa (violence).
The American Pediatric Association has not recommended universal newborn circumcision, though they have cited benefits over risks. Further, they have stated that the medical benefits alone may not outweigh these other considerations for individual families and that circumcision is an elective procedure. Most other international health authorities also have not recommended routine circumcision.
Benefit of circumcision has been cited for people living in unhygienic condition. However, there is no major medical issue noted for Japanese individuals, where the circumcision rate is less than 1%. Further, we are not aware of major issues for the millions of Hindus, especially those who are living in reasonably hygienic conditions. In the USA, the overall rate of circumcision is declining. For example, in the Western US, the rate of circumcision in newborns dropped in the last 32 years from 64% to 40%.
Benefit of circumcision has been cited in reducing HIV infection rates, however for an individual a condom will be far superior protector then being confident about your circumcision. A child born with defect on the foreskin (phimosis) should be appropriately treated. However, for others, to have foreskin on the penis is not a birth defect to be surgically corrected, rather the foreskin has abundant nerve endings designed to increase sexual sensation. Further, one study using 5552 men found that circumcision was associated with frequent orgasm difficulties (11% verses 4%) and women with circumcised spouses more often reported incomplete sexual needs fulfillment (38% verses 28%). When in doubt, why give pain to a just born child? Why create doubt on God’s creation of skin over the penis?
One need to keep in mind that the painful procedure of circumcision done to a child is (1) done without his consent, (2) is a violation of his human right, and (3) may have negative psychological and emotional consequences. If in doubt about scientific merits, parents should let the child decide at an adult age about the circumcision.
Bottom line, for scientific merits, the jury is still out. If it is a matter of faith, an interfaith couple should decide whose faith will rule their married life.
Other reading materials:
A MUST watch video: http://nocirc.org/
San Francisco Bay area: The latest figures indicate that 90% of San Francisco Bay Area infants leave the hospital after birth intact (without circumcision).
Jewish movements against circumcision: Beyond the Bris: Jewish Intactivist Parenting Blog; Ending Circumcision in the Jewish Community?; The Kindest Un-Cut Feminism, Judaism, and My Son’s Foreskin; Being rational about circumcision and Jewish observance; Alternative Rituals; A Jewish Woman Denounces Circumcision; Gonnen – Protect the Child; Israeli Association Against Genital Mutilation; Jews Against Circumcision; Questioning Circumcision.
Islam prohibits circumcision:http://www.quranicpath.com/misconceptions/circumcision.html “Allah tells us that He has created human beings perfectly. This means when a baby leaves the mother’s womb, he or she is in the most perfect of shape down to the finest detail. Nothing needs alteration.”
Frisch et al., 2011: This new study in Denmark revealed that circumcision was associated with frequent organism diffuclties in men and with a variety of frequent sexual difficulties in women….
The Wall Street Journal Article: Here the author implies some benefits of circumcision. During sexual intercourse, the delicate foreskin may be cut and bruised leaving uncircumcised men more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and herpes that spread through breaks in the skin. Further, the cuts may also make uncircumcised men more vulnerable to HIV infection. However, the circumcision is not a preferred method of preventing sexually transmitted diseases. A rational option is to simply use a condom because even circumcised penises get sexually transmitted diseases.
Protective Effect of Circumcision against Cancer of the Penis This article makes a strong case for benefit of male circumcision for a rare disease, the penile cancer. The rate of penile cancer in the USA (~70% circumcision) was 0.00081%. In the developing countried penile cancer rates are higher. Cases of penile cancer in India (0.002-0.01%) and Brazil (0.006-0.014%) are higher where most men are uncircumcised. However the rate of penile cancer in Denmark (2% circumcision) was lower compared to the USA. Amongs factors contributing to penile cancer, circumcision is the most determinant factor.
Wikipedia on Circumcision, a good source of general information.
Positions of medical associations:
The World Health Organization (WHO; 2007), the Joint United Nations Programme 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 be considered only in conjunction with other proven prevention measures. (The CDC have not yet made any final recommendations regarding circumcision.)
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP; September 2010) state that “After reviewing the currently available evidence, the RACP believes that the frequency of diseases modifiable by circumcision, the level of protection offered by circumcision and the complication rates of circumcision do not warrant routine infant circumcision in Australia and New Zealand. However it is reasonable for parents to weigh the benefits and risks of circumcision and to make the decision whether or not to circumcise their sons.”
The Fetus and Newborn Committee of the Canadian Paediatric Society posted “Neonatal circumcision revisited” in 1996 and “Circumcision: Information for Parents” in November 2004. The 1996 position statement says that “circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed”, and the 2004 information to parents says: ‘Circumcision is a “non-therapeutic” procedure, which means it is not medically necessary. Parents who decide to circumcise their newborns often do so for religious, social, or cultural reasons. […] After reviewing the scientific evidence for and against circumcision, the CPS does not recommend routine circumcision for newborn boys. Many paediatricians no longer perform circumcisions.’
In the Netherlands, the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) stated in 2010 that non-therapeutic male circumcision “conflicts with the child’s right to autonomy and physical integrity.” They called on doctors to inform caregivers seeking the intervention of the (in their assessment) medical and psychological risks and lack of convincing medical benefits. They stated that there are good reasons for legal prohibition of male circumcision as exists for female genital cutting.
“Male circumcision that is performed for any reason other than physical clinical need is termed non-therapeutic (or sometimes “ritual”) circumcision. Some people ask for non-therapeutic circumcision for religious reasons, some to incorporate a child into a community, and some want their sons to be like their fathers. Circumcision is a defining feature of some faiths”.
The BMA stipulates that “competent children may decide for themselves; the wishes that children express must be taken into account; if parents disagree, non-therapeutic circumcision must not be carried out without the leave of a court; consent should be confirmed in writing”.
“In the past, circumcision of boys has been considered to be either medically or socially beneficial or, at least, neutral. The general perception has been that no significant harm was caused to the child and therefore with appropriate consent it could be carried out. The medical benefits previously claimed, however, have not been convincingly proven, and it is now widely accepted, including by the BMA, that this surgical procedure has medical and psychological risks. It is essential that doctors perform male circumcision only where this is demonstrably in the best interests of the child. The responsibility to demonstrate that non-therapeutic circumcision is in a particular child’s best interests falls to his parents. The BMA considers that the evidence concerning health benefit from non-therapeutic circumcision is insufficient for this alone to be a justification for doing it.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (2012) stated: “After a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics found the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision. The AAP policy statement published Monday, August 27, says the final decision should still be left to parents to make in the context of their religious, ethical and cultural beliefs.”
The American Urological Association (2007) stated that neonatal circumcision has potential medical benefits and advantages as well as disadvantages and risks.
The circumcision debate
I have three young sons and thus far, not one of them has been circumcised—not out of choice but out of indecision. This circumcision issue has actually become a long-running debate between my husband and me. To cut or not to cut, that is the question.
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the penis’ foreskin. For some groups, like the Jews and the Moslems, circumcision is seen as a religious rite. Others see it as a boy’s passage to manhood circumcising young lads at the cusp of adolescence. Still others practice circumcision because of health reasons. We’ve enumerated the various reasons for and against this delicate practice.
Issue: Circumcision alleviates phimosis
A good medical reason to perform a circumcision is phimosis, a rare external congenital condition, which involves an abnormal tightness at the tip of the foreskin. Phimosis may obstruct the stream of urine causing urine to dribble out or spray in different directions. Urine could also accumulate between the tight foreskin and glans making these organs susceptible to infection. Normal sexual development may prove difficult.
Phimosis is an extremely rare condition. What’s more, the foreskin protects the glans from urine, stool, and external irritation. Some concerned groups see circumcision as a cosmetic procedure like ear piercing or lip stretching.
Issue: Circumcision minimizes the occurrence of urinary tract infections
Several studies of male babies in the 1970s and 1980s conclude that uncircumcised infants and children have a significantly higher incidence of urinary tract infections than circumcised males. The studies assert that the removal of the foreskin facilitates genital hygiene and reduces contamination of the tip of the glans, thus reducing the chances of an ascending bladder or kidney infection.
The incidence of urinary tract infections among uncircumcised male babies is too minimal as to warrant circumcision for all. The best way to prevent infections is to practice proper hygiene habits. Furthermore, circumcision exposes the tip of the penis to urine-soaked diapers that may irritate the glans.
Issue: Uncircumcised men are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases
During sexual intercourse, the delicate foreskin may be cut and bruised leaving uncircumcised men more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and herpes that spread through breaks in the skin. The cuts may also make uncircumcised men more vulnerable to HIV infection.
Circumcision is not the real answer to prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Using condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners have proven to be more effective in reducing the occurrence of STD. Even circumcised penises get sexually transmitted diseases. There are a lot of other factors to consider including access to medical care, geographical location, lifestyle, race, and socioeconomic factors.
Issue: Circumcision eliminates the possibility of cancer of the penis.
Cancer of the penis occurs almost exclusively among uncircumcised men. Some doctors also believe that cancer of the uterine cervix is less common in the female sexual partners of circumcised men.
The incidence of penile cancer is so low that routine newborn circumcision is not warranted. Other factors such as hygiene, family history, and sexual history are equally important in the incidence of penile cancer.
Further, asserting that females with circumcised partners have a lesser chance of contracting cervical cancer seems very far-fetched. There are weightier risk factors associated with cervical cancer such as age of first intercourse, number of sexual partners, possible viral transmission, family history, nutrition and hygiene.
Issue: Circumcision is a safe procedure.
Circumcision is a simple and safe procedure. Complications such as infection and bleeding are usually minor and preventable. Bleeding can be controlled with pressure or rarely, with a suture. Good hygiene will control infection. Marking how much skin to take off before doing the procedure ensures that the correct amount of foreskin is removed.
Circumcision is a potentially dangerous procedure. Excessive bleeding is the most frequent complication. Infections can occur. And if insufficient skin is removed, the end ring of the foreskin may heal by contracting and thickening, thus producing a phimosis.
Issue: Infants hardly feel the pain of circumcision.
The pain associated with circumcision lasts only for a few short minutes. Infants hardly feel it. Pacifiers seem to do the trick of alleviating the baby’s pain.
Infants do feel the pain especially those circumcised without anesthesia.
Issue: Circumcision is cost-effective.
It’s a cost-efficient procedure because it results to savings in a national scale by preventing penile cancer and eliminating the need for later, more costly, circumcision or phimosis and infection.
Some health insurers and welfare programs refuse to pay for or reimburse for a routine circumcision. In reality, the cost of neonatal circumcision far exceeds the benefits.
Issue: Boys want to look like other boys.
Since a lot of newborn males are still being circumcised, other boys want to look like the majority and like their fathers. Other boys might tease uncircumcised boys because the appearance of their genitals is different.
There are a lot more uncircumcised boys now than a few years ago.
Slice of life: the circumcision debate :
A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil’s Storehouse of Human Knowledge
Also read if in relations with a Christian: Hindu-Christian Marriage, Will Gandhi go to Hell since he was not Baptized?, Bible on Hindus?, Idol-Worshippers, I am a Christian mother, I converted without knowledge of my family, I am Christian getting married to a Hindu, Do all Christians go to Heaven?, Ignorent Molly trying to convert a Krishna believer to Christianity ..a video, Namastey London movie…intolerant Christians ..a video, All religions are not same, A Hindu America?, Why I am a Hindu?, A fundamentalist Christian, Why I came back to Hinduism?, Dharma is not the same as religion, Text book on How to convert Hindu Students to Christianity,
Also read if in relationship with a Muslim: Islamic Women Today, Muta, HRS, wife-beating, Muhammad, Hadith, Koran, Inter-race marriages, Hindu-Muslim marriages, Hindu girl/boy, Muslim girl/boy, Christian-Muslim marriages,