As the debate rages on about circumcision in newborn males, many parents are wondering what the commotion is all about. To understand both sides of the debate, one must examine the facts surrounding circumcision and why it may be beneficial to a person's health. One must also examine why many consider it to be a cruel procedure that can possibly cause trauma, while taking away a person's right to choose whether or not he wants to be circumcised.
What is Male Circumcision?
Male circumcision refers to surgically removing the foreskin from the penis, a ritual that has been present in society since ancient times. When a male infant is born, there is a hood of skin over the tip of the penis called the foreskin. Circumcision removes this hood of skin, exposing the head of the penis. Circumcision is probably one of the most common elective surgeries performed on males throughout the world. Aside from health, safety or aesthetic reasons, circumcisions are also a part of religious traditions in some cultures.
What are the Pros of Circumcision?
Numerous studies have reported that male circumcision can effectively reduce the risk of HIV infections, especially in areas where HIV is prevalent. Other possible benefits include:
- Lower risk of urinary tract infections.
- Reduced risk of penile cancer.
- Reduces the risk of various sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Lowers the risk of penile human papillomavirus infection (HPV).
- The penis becomes easier to clean.
- The penis may be more aesthetically pleasing.
- Circumcision may be a much more traumatic experience later in life when the child has become a full grown man and decides he wants to be circumcised.
While these possible health benefits make circumcision appealing for the parents of newborn males, further research is required to determine the validity of these medical claims.
Why can it Considered Cruel?
Some studies have reported that there is evidence that newborns experience pain and physiological stress due to circumcision without analgesia. The fact that there is the possibility of pain, and permanently altering the body part of another human being without his consent has raised arguments that circumcision is a cruel ritual that denies a person his human right to choose what he wants for his own body. Many also argue the fact that an infant is born with foreskin covering the hood of his penis, meaning there is no justification for removing the foreskin since there is no solid evidence of any health benefits to circumcision.
What are the Cons of Circumcision?
Aside from the fact that many consider circumcision to be a cruel, surgical procedure that causes a child unnecessary pain, while denying him the right to choose what happens to his body, there are other negative aspects associated with male circumcision:
- Possibility of infection due to the procedure.
- The child may suffer from bleeding due to circumcision, although it is usually very brief.
- There is the possibility that there may be complications with the circumcision that can result in damage to other parts of the penis, although this is quite rare.
- In extremely rare cases, there is the possibility of death due to a circumcision. However, circumcision is still considered by many to be one of the safest surgical procedures.
Those who have argued against circumcision have also made the following claims:
- Infants are able to remember the procedure, which can lead to emotional distress later in life.
- Circumcision can negatively affect sensation during sexual intercourse later in life.
Much like some of the possible health benefits of circumcision, these claims are unfounded, with no significant evidence supporting whether or not they are factual.
The Bottom Line
One can argue for or against circumcision for male infants, but in the end, it is still up to the parents. At the moment, there is not enough evidence to support that circumcision is a necessary surgical procedure. There is also not enough evidence to support that it can be detrimental to a child's growth and development, or if it will negatively affect him later on in life.
While many argue that parents are denying their child's right to choose whether or not he wants to be circumcised, they should also consider that the child does not have a choice in who his parents are, or what his parents' beliefs and traditions may be. Parents are responsible for many decisions that can affect their child's mental and physical health, circumcision is only one of them. Before making the decision on circumcision, parents need to carefully review both the pros and cons to determine if it's truly what they want for their child.