I grew up in a village in Pakistan and was lucky enough to have a healthcare staff for my circumcision ceremony. I tried to escape the pain, but all in vain, as it turned out to be far more severe than I expected. The more astonishing thing I remember is the attitude of my relatives, who were holding me tight throughout the procedure even though I always believed that they will be by my side in hard times. The pain went away in a week and I was excited about my new look when the health personnel removed the bandage. If I were given a choice, I would never have opted for this procedure.
In Pakistan around 93% of the male babies are circumcised. If you grew up in Pakistan you would remember you ceremony of circumcision. Male minors try to escape the painful procedure but they have to surrender before the established norms. The attempt to escape is a blunt refusal of the procedure on the part of the infant. In countries like Pakistan individual rights are not acknowledged and the concept of consent for minors remains a dream. Some families celebrate this event and one of my acquaintances organized a family event on circumcision of their male child. The event included cultural music, dance and celebrations while minors witnessed the event with bandages on.
In our society, uncircumcised child become the center of jokes and ridicule if their status becomes known to their fellows. It puts so much social pressure on a child that they ask for circumcision in their late adolescence.
Circumcision has a history which goes backs even before the evolution of major religions. This practice is believed to have started to differentiate the slaves from common people. With the passage of time, it is a possibility that every other person circumcised their children to make them look like their parents. Circumcision was one among many body mutilations prevailing at that time, body-piercing being just one example. The major reason why circumcision remains prevalent to this day is the adoption of this practice by religions, as religions evolved among the common population. Today circumcision is a religious practice among Muslims, Jews and some sects of Christians.
Circumcision is not only implemented by religion but it is accepted in many ethnic and social classes. In Philippines, the majority is Christian but still most of the male population is circumcised as they believe it to be a sign of masculinity and manhood.
Faith is not based on rationality but still some believers claim that circumcision has hygienic implications. World Health Organization recommends male circumcision in HIV high-risk areas of Africa to lessen the chances of HIV and other infections, where circumcision is not practiced otherwise. Health entities are neutral about this practice in the rest of the world because banning this procedure may result in non-standardized and unsafe practices. Risks associated with circumcision include infection after surgery especially when it is done by quack or a religious person instead of a trained professional or a pediatric surgeon. The modern procedures of circumcision, however, are not as risky.
Overall, global policy makers are also neutral about circumcision as no major physiological disability results from this practice. There are strict recommendations to prevent Female Genital Mutilations, but the resistance to male circumcision is not as strong since female advocacy groups categorize it as human genital mutilation. According to opponents of the practice, the part of skin removed in male circumcision has as many nerve endings as clitoris, the sensory part in female genitals. Some claim that circumcision reduces pleasure of sexual activity, a claim that remains contested.
Most of the hospitals and healthcare organizations around the world term it as elective, to be done only by the consent of the parents. In general, an eighteen year old is classified as an adult and considered eligible to give consent for medical procedures. A person below 18 years old is considered minor. Parents have a right to give consent for medical procedures which are suggested by the physician but in some instances in western societies, like pregnancy, minors above 13 years old reserve the legal right to give consent about their body.
I believe minors should be given a chance to decide about their own body. If they resist the procedure in any form it should be considered as ‘No’. If the child understands this procedure and he agrees to go for it, then it can be done. Moreover if parents delay the procedure till the child is able to understand his body there is no harm in that either. Parents who consider the choice of their kids to buy a toy should include them in the decision about the elective body mutilation. And this freedom of choice should not only be applied to circumcision but to other forms of mutilations like body piercing.
Numan Hussain is associated with public health research sector. He is interested in history of universe and evolution of culture and societies.