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"In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing,

nor uncircumcision: But faith

that worketh by charity."

-- Galatians 5:6, The Holy Bible

It's summer and yes, it's that time of year for the unkindest cut, at least if you're an uncircumcised boy of 10 or 11 (or 24).

Circumcision in the Philippines is much more of a ritual and a cultural habit than anything else. Medical studies report different results and give conflicting recommendations. And even if your little boy ends up walking slowly with legs apart this summer, it doesn't hurt to open the mind in a discussion of this "minor" operation.

Circumision is Ancient. In the Jewish tradition, circumcision (brit milah) is performed by the mohel or circumciser on the 8th day after birth. In the Muslim faith, the Quran does not mention circumcision but it is regarded as a tradition. Some Islamic theologians even insist that Mohammad and other prophets were born circumcised. Important Islamic practices like conversion, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and even prayer require circumcision.

What does the Catholic Church say about circumcision? As far back as 1422 A.D., in the time of Pope Eugene IV, the document Cantate Domino states: "It strictly orders all who glory in the name Christian not to practice circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation." (I'll see you in Hell.)

What is Circumcision? Technique-wise, circumcision is the surgical removal or permanent retraction of the skin hood that covers the tip of the penis (the prepuce). The preferred cut locally is one slit down the middle of the prepuce followed by retraction of the skin. Thus, the head of the penis (glans) is exposed. Most doctors do not trim any of the precious sensitive skin. Rather they suture it pulled back giving the penis the appearance of an agitated cobra. The procedure itself takes less than 30 minutes which starts with the infiltration of a local anesthetic. Other than the tremendous anxiety, this appears to be the most painful part of the operation.

Benefits and Risks. The benefits of circumcision (aside from no guffaws and snide remarks from the classmate in the adjacent urinal) are:

May decrease risk of penile cancer in adults.

May prevent inflammation or infection of the foreskin.

May decrease risk of urinary tract infection (UTI).

May decrease risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Social acceptance - in cultures that value circumcision.

As a procedure (however minor), circumcision can still result in infection, uncontrolled bleeding, or a surgical error such as too much or too little prepuce removed.

Adult Circumcision. For those who still want to be circumcised past puberty, it is best to see a urologist, the surgical expert in the genito-urinary system. However, circumcision may actually reduce sensitivity and consequently, sexual pleasure with the reduction of penile skin. The benefits of circumcision, particularly cancer, UTI, and STD risk decrease should be guiding reasons.

Care of the Uncircumcised Penis. Hygiene for the foreskin and glans penis is a concern for the uncircumcised. The foreskin must be retracted and the glans cleaned with soap and water. Otherwise, clumps of white to yellowish crud called smegma build up. Shed dead skin cells and dirt accumulate as smegma and must be removed regularly to avoid the risk of infection and foul smelling genitalia.

In the end, for most Filipino males, circumcision is a rite of passage. This is one reason, I think, that most parents delay the inevitable until such a time when pain is not only felt but more importantly, remembered. In primitive cultures, manhood was earned. In modern society, the transition to adolescence lacks the drama and consequently, the assignment of value that it richly deserves. Like the first menstruation, circumcision has a psychic need to fill - even if it means a red and swollen penis to prove it.



Jose Pujalte Jr.
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Title Annotation:Opinions and Editorials
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Apr 23, 2018
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