Up until the turn of the 20th Century, only Jewish and Muslim parents were insistent upon giving their male children circumcisions. By the mid-1900’s, nearly every parent was making the same decision. They were basing this choice on medical opinions that have since come under a lot of fire, and in the modern day the question of circumcision has come under debate again.
For those who’ve never seen this operation done or read or heard about it, understand that it is by its very nature brutal. Circumcision is the forceful removal of the foreskin of a male infants’ penis (typically – the operation can be done on adults if necessary). Such babies almost always cry and scream in fright; those who are quiet during the procedure are most likely in shock. Some even slip into a coma; and there are instances (albeit rare) where the operation is botched and the infant’s penis is lost as a consequence. Even when things go smoothly, it takes seven to ten days for the resulting wound to fully heal.
So how did such an obviously traumatic ritual become so popular in the first place? Circumcision has been, first and foremost, part of both Jewish and Muslim religious tradition (ancient rites in this regard were even more brutal than the ones we’re familiar with). In addition, there was some slight medical evidence that this operation could prevent certain complications in a man’s life. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) compiled a list of the pros and cons of circumcision. Among the pros: (1) A child’s foreskin would need to be routinely cleaned otherwise, (2) There’s lesser incidence of urinary infections, (3) Some uncircumcised males experience painful intercourse. This can only be remedied by adult circumcision, which is a not more painful and complicated. (4) cancer of the penis, while rare, is higher in uncircumcised men.
Despite these points, the AAP later concluded that there was insufficient weight of medical evidence to support routine neonatal male infant circumcision. Furthermore, they concluded, babies do feel the pain (despite popular myth). The United Nations non-governmental organization, the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Center (NOCIRC) went even further, proclaiming that circumcision was a form of child abuse. The NOCIRC also presented an alternative ritual called Brit Shalom, Covenant of Wholeness, which has been embraced by many of the Jewish faith – as it allows them to maintain their religious convictions without resorting to this painful operation.
Aside from all this, the fact remains that circumcision is a painful procedure that it done without the infant’s consent. It poses future problems: when one removes penile skin, one inevitably reduces sensation in that area, as well as penis size and girth. The infant is deprived of a foreskin that protects against irritation and friction. All these things are consequences that a male will have to live with for the rest of his life – and he never had any choice in the matter to begin with.