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Circumcision, Its History and Controversy


Circumcision is a surgical procedure of removing the foreskin on the genitals, usually performed on male children and adults. However, female circumcision is also practiced in certain world regions. As this procedure is controversial from the medical and sociological standpoint, it is necessary to describe the issue and examine various viewpoints on the matter.

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Brief Characterization

The procedure of circumcision involves removing the foreskin, or the prepuce from male genitalia. There are multiple reasons for undergoing such a procedure, including medical, religious, and preventative reasons (Circumcision in adults, n.d., para. 2). Circumcision might be a treatment for various conditions, such as phimosis (tight foreskin), balanitis, and cancer of the penis. Circumcision is often employed in Africa as a method of HIV-prevention.

Even though female circumcision is called female genital mutilation and is considered a violation of human rights around the world, it is often practiced in African and Arab countries. Such a procedure usually involves removing the clitoris, the area of female genitals with the highest number of nerve endings (Female circumcision, n.d., para. 1). It is an extremely painful procedure, carried out in such countries as Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. In African communities, it is a customary practice of initiation into adulthood.

Brief Historical Overview

According to Circumcision Information and Resource Pages, this surgical procedure is an ancient religious and cultural ritual that probably originated in Africa (n.d., para. 1). Circumcision remains a tradition in the Jewish culture, whereas in ancient Roman culture, the prepuce was valued greatly and circumcision was forbidden. Researchers point out that two types of circumcision – ritual and medical – have always been intertwined and influenced each other greatly. The religious view of the prepuce led to the so-called “demonization” of the foreskin (History of circumcision, n.d., para. 5). In the second half of the nineteenth century, it was finally introduced as a medical procedure. The twentieth century saw extensive debates on the matter, questioning circumcision as beneficial for the male organism.

Controversial Aspects

Over the decades, circumcision has become a controversial issue. The reasons for this development are medical. Certain experts in the U.S. firmly believe circumcision to be a protective and preventative measure against many health conditions and diseases (History of circumcision, n.d., para. 13). Whether it is the case remains to be seen. However, circumcision has become a particularly controversial issue due to certain diseases that have no cure, such as AIDS. Routine Neonatal Circumcision practice was abandoned in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada in the second half of the twentieth century. Nowadays, many argue that it should be revived and made mandatory due to its efficacy in protecting children from the onset of many diseases. Therefore, they present circumcision as a way to boost the immune system. This controversial standpoint is being widely criticized by many experts around the world, stressing the negative effects circumcision has on the male organism. The results of certain studies indicate a correlation between circumcision and risk of autism, behavioral problems, premature ejaculation, and overall sexual difficulties (Medical studies on circumcision, n.d., para. 1).


The issue of circumcision has always been controversial. Even though today it is far less likely to be ritualized in Western societies, the practice is still widespread. African and Arab communities hold firmly to this customary surgical procedure, while in certain African tribes even female circumcision is performed regularly. Nowadays, the issue of circumcision arouses lively debates about the matter of AIDS and other incurable diseases. More research is yet to be conducted to determine the negative and positive effects of this ambiguous surgical procedure.


Circumcision in adults. (n.d.). Web.

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Circumcision Information and Resource Pages. (n.d.). History of circumcision. Web.

Female circumcision. (n.d.). Web.

History of circumcision. (n.d.). Web.

Medical studies on circumcision. (n.d.). Web.

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