Eight reasons why you should not be circumcised
by The Linguist Chair
Circumcision in Setswana has been termed go rupa. Many have rightly objected to the use of go rupa arguing that go rupa is not merely snipping the foreskin. They contend that go rupa is a proper Tswana initiation education into manhood including educating young men how to build houses, defend themselves, their village, kgosi and their family, hunting techniques and how to take care of women and children.
The circumcision that is done is not accompanied by any manly training. It is merely a few minutes of surgery. Recently go rupa has been in the news. At one point it was go kgaola letlalo la bonna ‘to cut off the penis skin’. Now we are back with go rupa.
For the past few months there has been a huge campaign by the Ministry of Health in Botswana to get as many males as possible circumcised. Normal to all campaigns, the advantages of why individuals should be circumcised have been given while no disadvantages to circumcision have been offered. This is most unfortunate in this information age where people should be given as much information as possible before they make decisions.
Unfortunately, though many individuals in Botswana are connected to the internet, many would rather spend endless hours on Facebook instead of spending a few minutes on the internet researching the pros and cons of circumcision.
The advantages of circumcision have largely been around HIV infection; that circumcised males are at a lower risk of contracting the virus compared to their uncircumcised Philistine brothers. This brings to my mind the exploits of a Zulu man who had a shower after having unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman. Since the reasons for having circumcision are fairly well publicised, here are the eight reasons why you and your sons should not be circumcised.
1. Your foreskin may be used for traditional medicine. There is an open secret that during bogwera, young men’s foreskins were used for traditional medicine by borathipana. Some claim that the foreskins were dried and ground into a paste and used by dikgosi to control all the men from the initiation school. Men who had been to bogwera would therefore not revolt against the kgosi or question his authority regardless of how intelligent and critical they may d be on other matters. Last week there were reports that certain Ministry of Health officials were selling foreskins to bomatwetwe. The Ministry of Health has since released a statement that they are “not aware of such reports or allegations”. Note carefully that they are not claiming that such sales do not occur; they only claim not to be aware of their occurrence. They further observe that they are “not investigating any officials” in connection with these reports.
2. The circumcised penis appears truncated and thinner than a full-sized intact penis. The foreskin creates a visibly longer penis, especially when the foreskin extends beyond the head of the penis. Also, the double-layered tissue of the foreskin engorges with blood during erection and creates a visibly and sensually thicker shaft and glans. When the engorged foreskin retracts behind the coronal ridge of the glans, it often creates a wider and more pronounced "ridge" that many partners find especially stimulating during penetrative intercourse. Taylor et al (1996) writing in the British Journal of Urology observes that the prepuce (foreskin) constitutes 50 percent or more of the skin system of the penis. To remove this skin in our society that is concerned with penis size, may result with a penis that appears thinner resulting with unknown psychological damage.
3. The foreskin is important for protecting the penis glans from abrasion, drying, callusing (keratinization), and environmental contaminants. The glans is intended by nature to be a protected internal organ, like the female clitoris. There is certainly nothing attractive about keratinisation, ke gore go omelela le go phanyega ga bonna bo felela bo tshwana le serethe! Instead it has been shown that keratinization causes a considerable loss of sexual sensation, pleasure and fulfilment as shown by Money and Davison (1983) and Hammond (1999). Additionally, the inner foreskin contains bands of densely innervated, sexually responsive tissue. They constitute a primary erogenous zone of the human penis and are important for realizing the fullness and intensity of sexual response. The glans of a circumcised penis is usually dry, rough and often a sorry light pink to bluish-gray.
4. The foreskin is also very important because it is the only moving part of the penis. During a sexual activity, the foreskin facilitates the forward and backward gliding movement of the penis. The non-abrasive gliding of the penis in and out of itself within the vagina facilitates smooth and pleasurable intercourse for both partners. Without this gliding action, the corona of the circumcised penis can function as a one-way valve, dragging vaginal lubricants out into the drying air and making artificial lubricants essential for non-painful intercourse.
5. There is a potential of complications during circumcision which are rarely discussed. These include excessive bleeding and post-operative infection. With the advancement in modern medicine these are however reduced considerably. However a possibility does exist that one may be laden with a swollen and infected member for weeks because of a very unskilled western-educated rathipana. Unfortunate boys who suffer botched circumcisions may lose part or their entire penis from surgical mishap or subsequent infection.
6. Circumcision of underage boys violates the principle of consent of treatment. Circumcision should only be carried out on consenting adult males who can make an informed decision on whether they wish to be circumcised. The obvious challenge here is that it is a process which is almost impossible to reverse. In the event that a 19 year old wishes to have his foreskin back, it would be close to impossible to find it and sow it back on.
7. The foreskin contains large amounts of blood vessels, including the frenular artery and branches of the dorsal artery. The loss of this rich vascularization interrupts normal blood flow to the shaft and glans of the penis, damaging the natural function of the penis and altering its development.
8. Circumcision damages about half of the smooth muscle sheath that underlies the scrotum, the entire penis and the tip of the foreskin. Doctors call this smooth muscle Dartos fascia. It is necessary for proper temperature regulation of the genitals (causing these structures to elongate in the heat and shrink in the cold). Approximately half of the Dartos fascia is destroyed by circumcision.
I therefore encourage males to comb the web and educate themselves on whether to be circumcised or not. Some have rushed to the clinics to be circumcised just because they have been told that it is good for them. That is not good enough. Both the advantages and disadvantages must be placed before individuals and then they should choose based on a full consideration of the facts. Here I have given some of the reasons why you and your boys shouldn’t be circumcised. Now go and educate yourself before o kopana le rathipana.