Your Body, Your Choice

For many new parents circumcising their new born baby boy is a given. In many cases not much thought is given to the idea and the actions of parents are guided by cultural or religious practices.

Circumcision may have some clear health benefits. The World Health Organization has published results on research that indicate men who engage in heterosexual sex has a 60% less chance of acquiring or transmitting HIV. There is also compelling evidence that show that the transmission rate of other STI’s and cervical cancer in females are significantly reduced when their male sexual partner is circumcised.

This explains that reason why so many countries, especially in Africa, have engaged in nationwide circumcision campaigns in an attempt to curb the spread of HIV infection.

On 2 December 2013 Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, at the launch of the government’s medical male circumcision campaign on World Aids Day said that “Our target is to circumcise one-million men over the next 12 months and cumulatively four-million men by 2016. Medical male circumcision had proven to be an effective component of the government’s HIV prevention package. Once 80 percent of South African men had been medically circumcised, half-a-million new HIV infections and 100 000 deaths over the course of the next decade would be prevented.”

Circumcision may also reduce the risk of developing a urinary tract infections and cancer of the penis. Male circumcision can also potentially reduce the risk of female partners developing certain sexually transmitted infections, such as bacterial vaginosis andtrichomoniasis.

However, many medical practitioners argue that there are much more effective as well as less invasive ways of preventing these conditions. This includes practicing good hygiene to prevent urinary tract infections as well as using a condom to prevent STIs.

 Most healthcare professionals uphold the idea that that the potential benefits of circumcision is not compelling enough to rationalize routine childhood circumcision.

 There are also many disadvantages of circumcising male infants. One of the most common disadvantages is the reduced sensitivity of the penis.  An uncircumcised penis is more sensitive than a circumcised penis, meaning that circumcised men could possibly experience less pleasure during sex. Circumcision also include complications such as excessive bleeding, post-operative infection and, in rare cases, injury to the urethra. These complications are thought to outweigh any potential benefits.

 Furthermore, there are critics who argue that routinely circumcising baby boys on medical grounds violates the principle of consent to treatment and bodily autonomy and sovereignty. Thus, circumcision should be a choice made by an individual and not by the parents or medical doctor.

 Circumcising the healthy foreskin of an infant male, who is not sexually active, has absolutely no health benefits and is an absolute denial of that person’s bodily sovereignty and autonomy.

 Circumcision should only be performed when a boy is old enough to make an informed decision about whether he wishes to be circumcised or not. This includes cultural and religious practices where infant boys are circumcised without their consent. it is their body and should thus be their choice to make if they want to make a permanent change to their body.

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