This is a bit personal but I sit here right now battling in my head what to do next in view of a conversation I just had with a very close relative of mine. First she texts me, Please call urgently. I immediately start panicking thinking something is wrong, however I succeed in making that call. She wants to take her two sons aged 19 and 22 to Harare Hospital to get circumcised, so they will need a ride from there. I have no problem delivering them to and from the hospital. When I put down the phone initially, I think nothing of it. Then it hit me. Knowing how overbearing this particular relative (call her aunt Mabel) can get – there was a huge possibility that the two boys were being forced to go through this procedure. So I call her back to find out more and I wasn’t off the mark. That has become the new policy for the boys as long as they live under her roof and eat her food. In talking to her further I find out that this circumcision business – which in my books is just another one of the latest but fleeting donor fashion fads – has had a huge appeal on her and her colleagues. No matter what I tried to explain to her, I could sense that in a way Aunt Mabel believes that this one procedure is what could spare her boys a debilitating death ‘in these HIV days’. I have begun to feel like such an accomplice to a heinous crime. Most of my adult life I have sought to protest against violation of human rights and now here I am caught in a conspiracy to take my cousins for circumcision against their will. If Aunt Mabel was going to be this cruel, I wonder why she didn’t just get it done when the boys were still babies, without a care and not in a position to make decisions for themselves. Surely that option was available long before then?
Although I understand and appreciate the benefits of male circumcision, I feel that efforts to dispel the lurking notion that this procedure prevents HIV infection have not been nearly as frantic as has been it’s marketing as a prevention method. A lot of people, including my aunt sincerely believe that if there is so much noise around this subject, there must be some immense life saving benefit to it. And there are in fact some immense benefits, just not entirely life saving. The watered down explanation that circumcision reduces chances of HIV infection, although the risk is still far too high and that condoms and safe sex must still be used is confusing a lot of people. I also think the concept of male circumcision has become a tad overrated. And I can only but imagine how many young boys out there are meekly being led by overbearing mothers like sheep to the slaughter to get circumcised against their wishes.
Although the risks outweigh the benefits, I’m sure that if I were a guy, I’d appreciate having the final decision lying with me thank you, and circumcision, like all surgical procedures, has a risk of complications and adverse effects that include bleeding, infection, surgical error, injury to the penis, and adverse reactions to anesthesia, not to mention the 4-6 weeks of agony that male adults have to live with while waiting for the wound to heal. I am also made to understand that foreskin removal desensitizes the penis head, and contrary to popular belief, sex is less stimulating compared to those who have their skins intact. In essence, the main benefit of foreskin removal is hygiene and aesthetics. I am pretty sure given the full info that a lot of men would then rather keep what God gave them. This is however not to say that it is a bad idea. Studies have shown that indeed, chances of circumcised men developing urinary tract infections and their female partners having cervical cancer are greatly reduced.
A friend of mine thinks that I am probably fretting needlessly and that the boys might actually be interested in undergoing this procedure. Perhaps they would like to be circumcised, but I doubt under such circumstances. In any case, I can imagine them now all grown up and feeling that they were mutilated and deprived of an important structure of their original anatomy without their consent. A lot of men are just as obsessed about this as those who clamor to be circumcised. It has also been suggested that the operation may cause psychological trauma. It is therefore a good thing that facilities offering this service provide counseling first. I think they must also have their clients sign consent forms and that in the case where they are forced but do not want to go through with the procedure, they can just come out without having it done and through doctor-patient confidentiality, their parents would never find out.