“I’m glad I don’t remember it!” That’s usually the response when one brings up the topic of circumcision to most American men. Luckily for most people, studies have suggested that the earliest memories humans can recall are from around 2-3 years old.
Debates are heating up in San Francisco in anticipation for a measure on the November ballot, which proposes a ban on male circumcision. Intact America, an anti-circumcision group who call themselves “intactivists,” wants to raise awareness about their stance that parents and doctors are violating children’s rights by circumcising them before they are aware of what’s happening to their genitalia and can give consent.
The LA Times reported the story and allowed advocates on both sides of the debate to state their cases in the newspaper. Georganne Chapin, the founding executive director of Intact America, claims that circumcision is not medically necessary and causes more harm to males than is reported.
Under bioethical principles, parental consent for the medical treatment is permitted only if the treatment being considered will save the life or health of the child….There are medical risks involved with circumcision. The baby loses the protective function of the foreskin, which means that the head of the penis can build up extra layers of skin, or the baby could develop skin ridges, a bent penis or sexual dysfunction later in life.
On the other side of the debate, circumcision is regarded as a procedure that helps the male penis remain sanitary well into older age. Advocates assert that circumcised males will benefit from the “snipping” when they become sexually active, finding themselves somewhat better protected than their uncircumcised counterparts from HIV, herpes, syphilis, and penile cancer.
Harvard School of Public Health lecturer Daniel Halperin professes that the benefits of male circumcision far out weigh any potential mental or physiological damage detractors may contend happens to infants. In underprivileged countries across the globe, where access to Western standards of hygiene are in an increasingly higher demand, studies have demonstrated the importance of circumcising boys:
In Africa, there have been three randomized trials — two published in the journal Lancet in 2007 and one in the journal PLoS Medicine in 2005 — demonstrating that circumcision reduces heterosexual HIV infection in men by at least 60%. The foreskin provides a ready access to cells that are the entry point for HIV because the skin there is very soft and permeable, making it more vulnerable to infection. The area underneath the foreskin is also humid and provides a hospitable environment for infections, whereas they can’t proliferate as well on the dry skin of the circumcised penis.
Both arguments seem convincing, and with new research that is starting to recognize the significance of infant trauma, and how it affects the development of human personality, this debate will not calm down anytime soon.
FrugiVoice: Where do you stand on male circumcision? Is it a necessary evil? Or should children be protected and allowed to make the decision once they are fully cognizant of what happening to their bodies?