Friday, 25 June 2010

Circumcision: What Every Globetrotter Parent Should Know

I'm amazed at the number of sophisticated, educated, international (but almost always American or Canadian) parents that I come across overseas who choose to circumcise their son.  

All true globetrotter parents should be aware of the following facts about circumcision.   

  1. Most men in the world and the great majority of men in Europe, Central and South America and Asia are not circumcised.  Only 10 to 15 percent of men throughout the world are circumcised, the majority of whom are Muslim.
  2. Routine infant circumcision was introduced in the United States in the 1800s to prevent masturbation.  Victorian doctors knew that circumcision desensitized the penis.
  3. No medical association anywhere in the world supports non-therapeutic neonatal circumcision (male or female) on medical grounds or "hygenic" grounds.
  4. The claim that male circumcision protects against HIV is based on studies in Africa.  In Uganda, researchers began with a total of 4,996 men and randomly divided them into two groups, circumcising one group (2,474 men) and leaving the other group (2,522 men) intact. After 24 months, both groups were tested for HIV. Of the circumcised men, 22 tested positive (0.9 percent).  45  men in the uncircumcised group (1.8 percent) tested positive. Of all the participants, a total of 1.3 percent tested HIV positive; the other 98.7 percent remained HIV-negative.  Despite these tiny percentages, researchers derived a 55 percent risk-prevention figure from the difference in results between the two groups.
  5. Similarly, the Kenyan trials began with 2,784 men and randomly divided them, with 1,391 undergoing circumcision and 1,391 left intact. Two years later, testing showed 22 new infections among the circumcised men (1.6 percent) and 47 among those left intact (3.3 percent).
  6. Circumcision is by no means akin to a vaccine against HIV-AIDS. Claiming that circumcision prevents HIV-AIDS is irresponsible and gives rise to a false (and dangerous) sense of security.
  7. The United States has the highest rate of medically unnecessary, non-therapeutic infant circumcision in the world and yet the HIV infection rate in North America is twice the rate in Europe.
  8. Circumcision offers no protection at all to gay men.
And now, some biological facts that everyone should know:
  1. Every normal human being is born with a foreskin. In females, it protects the glans of the clitoris; in males, it protects the glans of the penis.
  2. Before the foreskin can be cut (or crushed) off, it has to be torn away from the glans. This act is akin to ripping your fingernails off your fingers.   
  3. Circumcision removes 50% of the skin of the penis.  Depending on the foreskin's length, cutting it off makes the penis as much as 25 percent shorter. Circumcision cuts off more than 3 feet of veins, arteries, and capillaries, 240 feet of nerves, and more than 20,000 nerve endings. The foreskin's muscles, glands, mucous membrane, and epithelial tissue are destroyed, as well.
  4. Circumcision removes the most sensitive part of the penis.
  5. Circumcision reduces sexual pleasure. The foreskin slides up and down on the shaft, stimulating the glans by alternately covering and exposing it.  No additional lubrication is needed. Without the foreskin, the glans skin, which is normally moist mucous membrane, becomes dry and thickens as a result of continual exposure, thus reducing its sensitivity.
  6. One of the most common myths about circumcision is that it makes the penis cleaner and easier to care for.  This is not true. The glans of the circumcised penis are subject to abrasion and exposed to dirt and bacteria, leaving the urinary tract vulnerable to infection.
Parents who are faced with the decision of whether or not to circumcise their son should have all the relevant information made available to them.  Yet the sad fact is many American and even Canadian parents, including those who live beyond North American borders, choose to circumcise purely out of a sense of tradition and so that baby "looks like his father", and doctors do little or nothing to educate them.

Please, if you're having a baby boy, inform yourself before you decide to circumcise.

Some sources:
The Case Against Circumcision
The Truth About Circumcision and HIV
Policy Statement of Doctors Opposing Circumcision


Mark Lyndon said...

I agree with almost everything you say, but it's about 30% of the world's men who are circumcised.

You might also want to check out the following:

Canadian Paediatric Society
"Recommendation: Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed."
"Circumcision is a 'non-therapeutic' procedure, which means it is not medically necessary."
"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.

RACP Policy Statement on Circumcision
"After extensive review of the literature, the Paediatrics & Child Health Division of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has concluded that there is no medical reason for routine newborn male circumcision."
(almost all the men responsible for this statement will be circumcised themselves, as the male circumcision rate in Australia in 1950 was about 90%. "Routine" circumcision is now *banned* in public hospitals in Australia in all states except one.)

British Medical Association: The law and ethics of male circumcision - guidance for doctors
"to circumcise for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive would be unethical and inappropriate."

The Royal Dutch Medical Association
"The official viewpoint of KNMG and other related medical/scientific organisations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications."

Drops in male circumcision:
USA: from 90% to 57%
Canada: from 48% to 32%
UK: from 35% to about 5% (about 1% among non-Muslims)
Australia: 90% to 12.6% ("routine" circumcision has recently been *banned* in public hospitals in all states except one, so the rate will now be a lot lower)
New Zealand: 95% to below 3% (mostly Samoans and Tongans)
South America and Europe: never above 5%

It's worth remembering that no-one except for Muslim and Jewish people would even be having this discussion if it weren't for the fact that 19th century doctors thought that :
a) masturbation caused various physical and mental problems (including epilepsy, convulsions, paralysis, tuberculosis etc), and
b) circumcision stopped masturbation.

Both of those sound ridiculous today I know, but to find out how they thought back then, see :
A Short History of Circumcision in North America In the Physicians' Own Words

Over a hundred years later, circumcised men keep looking for new ways to defend the practice.

Hugh7 said...

Thanks to the Internet, word is spreading, even within the US.

In the African trials, not only was the absolute difference in HIV very small, but several times as many circumcised men dropped out, their HIV status unknown, as were known to be infected, so it's entirely possible that the "protection" is completely bogus.

Last week news came from Malaysia that 72% of new HIV infections are among Muslim men. Only 60% of the population is Muslim. Virtually all Muslim men are circumcised, virtually none of the other religious groups in Malaysia. Like the six African countries where more of the circumcised men have HIV than the non-circumcised, this certainly needs explaining before relying on the three trials to claim that "circumcision protects against HIV". (The reliance of some people on this mantra would make you wonder why anyone was ever circumcised before the appearance of HIV! It just illustrates that "circumcision is a 'cure' looking for a disease.")

KOTFrank said...

Globe Parent, Mark, and Hugh pretty much says it all.
New studies released since the three randomized control trials (RCTs) on HIV and circumcision show that RCT results cannot be applied to the general population of Sub-
Saharan Africa or anywhere else. Two studies published in 2008 concluded that male circumcision is not associated with reduced HIV infection rates in the general sub-Saharan population. The study specifically analysing circumcision rates and HIV in South Africa found that, "Circumcision had no protective effect on HIV transmission." A 2008 WHO bulletin reported an alarming 35% complication rate for traditional circumcisions and an 18% complication rate for clinical circumcisions. "A 2008 study found that increased use of condom promotion would be 95 times more cost effective than male circumcision in preventing new HIV infections." " #Circumcision and HIV/Aids; time to cut losses" by Gawaya Tegulle Africans are starting to smell a rat

Keratinization for a 45 yo has the thickness of 1-2 condoms. Circumcised takes 10x the pressure for vaginal entry. Circumcision cuts off 65%-85% of the sexual receptors, leaving 15% receptors in the glans corona which must fight against the populace pain receptors located in the glans. Destroys the function of the Dartos Muscle
where all action on the shaft is transferred to act on the erogenous Ridged Band and Frenulum. Action on the circumcised shaft is wasted on these structures as action must be applied directly to the Frenulum remnant if any remains. Sorrells et al."Fine-Touch Pressure Thresholds of the Adult Penis"; Taylor's "Frenular Delta"

Circumcision sexually handicaps and creates disquiet in males furthering violence. James Prescott "The Origins of Human Love and Violence". See also:

Circumcision kills parts of the brain when no longer receiving neural impulses from the gone foreskin, cells atrophy and die. Then adjacent brain cells grow into this dead space chaotically. See also: Brain Visualization Research during Male Infant Circumcision by Dr. Paul D. Tinari Ph.D.

PAIN: Nelson Mandela said his circumcision was blinding white light of electrical fire that burned throughout all his veins. See also: 3,928 island villagers males&females all ages forced circ'd into Islam by Muslim clerics

Circumcision lessens fertility in men.

The foreskin is the intact males surrogate vagina which teaches the owner how best to please himself and his partner. Without it, he is just swinging his bat in the dark!

The Globetrotter Parent said...

Thank you all for the additional information that you have provided. It frustrates me to no end to hear Americans over here - in the MEDICAL community - tell me that circumcision prevents AIDS. Shouldn't they of all people be in the know?

fiona said...

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