Circumcision: An African Point of View
Male and Female Circumcision: Medical, Ethical and Legal Considerations in Paediatric Practice, Plenum Publishing, 1999
Posted: 25 May 1999
Circumcision, by which I mean any surgical intervention on the genitals of a human being for cultural, religious or purely secular and profane reasons, has recently become a highly controversial issue reminiscent of such other issues as the abortion debate. Pro-circumcisionists have marshalled as many arguments in its favour as anti-circumcisionists have marshalled against it. Quite interestingly, both sides have used science and the work of eminent scientists to support their respective positions, making it evident that science can be a double-edged sword which lends itself readily as an alibi for strongly held preferences or cultural biases. In this paper, I discuss circumcision as a rite de passage within an African culture- that of the Nso? of the north-western grasslands of Cameroon. I then attempt to provide what I consider cross-cultural arguments against circumcision without prior informed consent, especially routine infant circumcision. But then, I also argue for the availability, in principle, of circumcision under the best medical conditions possible, for well-informed adults who, for any reason, freely insist on undergoing it.
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