Circumcision: To be or not to be?
Circumcision –the cutting away of the foreskin, is an important topic for men and women as it directly affects them.
This week, we ran the debate on our Facebook page and the feedback was resourceful.
More than half of our 24 000 Facebook followers either followed the post or took part in it, where most women called for circumcision to be made compulsory for all men in Namibia.
“Sex with a man who is circumcised is much better than with the uncircumcised one, as the latter foreskin disrupts the soft entry ‘there’ causing pain. So please, if you are not circumcised yet, do it now as it is a pleasure for some of us, women,” says Johanna Kambala. Kambala’s views echo the majority of the rest of the women on the online survey.
Shaniquà Macloý adds, “Every guy needs to go through this process.”
Ccommunity health consultant at the Society for Family Health Namibia, Jan Amunjela Maasdorp equally argues it is better for men to be circumcised because ‘it makes it easier for them to keep their penises clean and are better enabled to prevent inflammation of their penis glands and foreskins, as well as phimosis and paraphimosis.’
Assuming the rest of the Namibian women’s views mirror those revealed in the online survey, then perhaps - at least for men - that advantage alone could possibly outweigh any potential disadvantages and bring more men before the knife.
Alexia Kakuva says, “A circumcised penis just looks better, neater and feels cleaner. But in terms of intercourse, I do not feel any difference apart from the fact that circumcised men need lubrication to penetrate raw without pain. But when circumcised men wear a condom, they’re all just the same.”
However, some of the strongest arguments against circumcision include the belief that the uncovered head of the penis will constantly be exposed to harsh temperatures. With the continual rubbing of the penis head on the inner clothing, the effect would eventually take away sensation from the man, which in turn would affect intercourse as the male will need to thrust more intensely to regain sensitivity.
This, in itself, does not appear to be the reason why most women are attracted to the unsheathed male organ as Lidia Shiimi says, “Whether they have done it or not, it is all just the same to me.”
Dr Ndapewa Hamunine argues circumcision has no bearing or impact on a couple’s sexual activity. “Most people who say that are men who have not been circumcised, so they do not know what they are talking about. The cut area soon heals and then everything returns to normal,” she says, adding, “The only impact I can think of is that couples will no longer need to be visiting clinics for treatment on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as the penis is much cleaner than before circumcision.”
Perhaps the most crucial argument in the matter is the medical aspect. Dr Hamunine stresses the foreskin creates a hiding place for all kinds of bacteria, including HIV. “There are cells in the foreskin that receive viruses more easily but once cut off, a big threat is eliminated,” she says.
She adds, “In fact, according to studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO), circumcised men are less likely to be infected with HIV than men who are not.”
Dr Hamunine, however, quips this view is part of a prevention package, including abstinence, faithfulness and the use of condoms and should not be viewed as an invitation for circumcised men to engage in unprotected sex.
She also cautions those who are seeking this procedure to find a registered centre or hospital, as any small error could leave the man with a terrible scar, losing more skin than had been planned, which would cause pain with every erection.
Another side of the debate is the religious aspect with several people stating circumcision should not be undergone as the skin should be left as God created it.
Says Theo Martin: “Those are new things people want to use to modify God’s creation. God would not have created it as it is if men did not need it.”
Martin is perhaps unaware of the portion in the Bible; Genesis 17 vs 23-27; where God commands an entire generation of Abraham to be circumcised.
And it is not just from a theological point of view that the practice has been around for ages.
Local culturalist and University of Namibia lecturer Petrus Angula Mbenzi, describes the process as a graduation process from childhood to adulthood, with regards to the Oshiwambo culture: “This practice has been around in the Oshiwambo culture for hundreds of years. It gave one the qualifications to participate in certain traditional activities, including marriage and hunting. In fact, you would not be considered a man if you were not circumcised.”
He, however, admits with the introduction of Christianity in Namibia around the 1870s, the significance of circumcision has faded over the years.
Observer of the Herero and Ovambanderu cultures, Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, argues although the stigma of uncircumcised men not being considered as men is still prevalent, it is practically a non-issue in Herero culture as almost every single man is circumcised. The matter is that important to them.
“When the Ovaherero were nomads, they figured the best way to stay clean was to cut away the foreskin of their penises,” says Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, adding, “Since then, it has been adopted as an integral part of their culture. There are even peer groups in form of social clubs that men who are about to be circumcised can join, like the Omakura Fraternity. They last for three years and during that time, they learn discipline and respect for fellow fraternity brothers.”
In most African culture, a couple is not allowed to engage in sexual activities during the initiation phase of their child and women on their menstrual cycle are not allowed to touch the child.
Last year, 44 Members of Parliament in Zimbabwe were circumcised as part of a national HIV/Aids awareness campaign.
One MP even allowed photographers to take pictures of him lying on a bed with his recently bandaged penis on display.
Research cited by the World Health Organization has shown that male circumcision – removing all or part of the foreskin – can reduce a man’s risk of getting HIV by up to 60 per cent.
So for health reasons, go cut it.