Male Genital Mutilation (MGM)

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Male genital mutilation (MGM), often referred to as 'male circumcision', comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external male genitalia or other injury to the male genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons.

Definitions/Meaning of MGM or Male Circumcision

Male circumcision involves the removal of the foreskin. It may also involve frenectomy, the removal of the frenulum. A related procedure is preputioplasty, which is used as a treatment for phimosis. This procedure is most often performed upon infant boys. It has religious significance in the Jewish religion and in Islam. It spread into Western culture, and peaked in the early 80s. The bioethics of neonatal circumcision are a subject of intense debate, with circumcision advocates promoting it as beneficial, and supporters of genital integrity opposing it as harmful and/or a violation of the individual's human rights. Some adults who were circumcised as infants engage in foreskin restoration, a method of stretching the penile skin in order to partially recreate the foreskin. Some academics use the term male genital cutting or male genital mutilation in reference to male circumcision. Wikipedia

Male circumcision is the removal of some or the entire foreskin (prepuce) from the penis. The word "circumcision" comes from Latin circum (meaning "around") and cædere (meaning "to cut"). Early depictions of circumcision are found in cave paintings and Ancient Egyptian tombs, though some pictures are open to interpretation. Religious male circumcision is considered a commandment from God in Judaism. In Islam, though not discussed in the Qur'an, circumcision is widely practiced and most often considered to be a sunnah. It is also customary in some Christian churches in Africa, including some Oriental Orthodox Churches. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global estimates suggest that 30% of males are circumcised, of whom 68% are Muslim. The prevalence of circumcision varies mostly with religious affiliation, and sometimes culture. Most circumcisions are performed during adolescence for cultural or religious reasons; in some countries they are more commonly performed during infancy. Wikipedia

Types of MGM

  • Type I - excision or injury of part or all of the skin and specialized mucosal tissues of the penis including the prepuce and frenulum (circumcision, dorsal slit without closure).
  • Type II - excision or injury to the glans (glandectomy) and/or penis shaft, (penectomy) along with Type I MGM. Any procedure that interferes with reproductive or sexual function in the adult male.
  • Type III - excision or destruction of the testes (castration, orchidectomy) with or without Type II MGM.
  • Type IV - unclassified: includes pricking, piercing or incision of the prepuce, glans, scrotum or other genital tissue; cutting and suturing of the prepuce over the glans (infibulation); slitting open the urethra along the ventral surface of the penis (sub-incision); slitting open the foreskin along its dorsal surface (super-incision); severing the frenulum; stripping the skin from the shaft of the penis; introducing corrosive or scalding substances onto the genital area; any other procedure which falls under the definition of MGM given above.
  • The most common type of male genital mutilation is excision of the foreskin (circumcision), accounting for the vast majority of all cases; the most extreme form is excision or destruction of the testes (castration), which constitutes a small percentage of all procedures

The Who, What and Why of MGM

In cultures where it is an accepted norm, male genital mutilation is practiced by followers of all religious beliefs as well as animists and non believers. MGM is usually performed either by a traditional practitioner, often with crude instruments and without anesthetic, or in a health care facility by qualified health personnel.

The age at which male genital mutilation is performed varies from area to area. It is performed on infants a few days old, male children and adolescents and, occasionally, on mature men.

The reasons given by families for having MGM performed include:

  • Psychosexual reasons: elimination of the sensitive tissue of the foreskin and the stimulation that it provides, depriving the glans of its protective environment to reduce sexual pleasure;
  • Sociological reasons: identification with the cultural heritage, initiation of boys into manhood, social integration and the maintenance of social cohesion;
  • Hygiene and aesthetic reasons: the foreskin is considered dirty and unsightly and is to be removed to promote hygiene and provide aesthetic appeal;
  • Myths: babies don’t feel pain, a foreskin is hard to keep clean, circumcision protects against certain diseases, male circumcision is less barbaric than female circumcision;
  • Religious reasons: Most Muslim and Jewish communities practice MGM in the belief that it is demanded by the Islamic and Judaic faiths. The practice, however, predates both religions.

Consequences of MGM

The immediate and long-term health consequences of male genital mutilation vary according to the type and severity of the procedure performed.

Immediate complications include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, infection, excessive skin loss, skin bridges, glans deformation, bowing, meatal stenosis, loss of penis, and injury to adjacent tissue. Hemorrhage and infection can cause death. More recently, concern has arisen about possible transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) due to the use of one instrument in multiple operations. Some researchers are also promoting MGM as a tool to combat AIDS by touting studies that show a link between medicalized circumcision and reduced rates of HIV transmission, which is likely to increase the number of forced circumcisions and related complications.

Long-term consequences include scar formation, keratinization, sexual dysfunction, loss of sexual sensitivity, and increased friction and pain during sexual intercourse.

Psychosexual and psychological health: Genital mutilation may leave a lasting mark on the life and mind of the man who has undergone it. In the longer term, men may suffer feelings of anger, incompleteness, anxiety, depression, and lifelong psychological trauma.

Prevalence of MGM

Most of the boys and men who have undergone genital mutilation live in 28 African countries, the Middle East, the USA, and parts of Asia. They are also found in Europe, Australia, and Canada.

Today, the number of boys and men who have undergone male genital mutilation is estimated at 650 million. It is estimated that each year, a further 13 million boys are at risk of undergoing MGM.

Castration Anxiety

Freud and other psychoanalysts have discussed male genital mutilations as inducing a form of "castration anxiety" in the child by which the taboo against incest and parricide is pathologically strengthened (DeMeo 1986). Montagu (1946) and Bettelheim ( 1962) have discussed their connections to the male fear of vaginal blood, where menstruation is imitated (sub-incision), or where the male must be ritually absolved of contact with poisonous childbirth blood (infant circumcision), or hymenal blood (pubertal circumcision). Reich identified genital mutilations as but one, albeit a major one, of a series of brutal and cruel acts directed toward infants and children which possess hidden motives designed to cause a painful, permanent contraction of the child's physical and emotional self. Reich saw the real purpose of circumcision, and other assaults upon the child's sexuality, to be the reduction of the child's emotional fluidity and energy level, and their ability to experience maximal pleasurable genital excitation later in life, a major step in, as he put it, transmuting Homo sapiens into armored Homo normalis. Reich argued that parents and doctors blindly advocated or performed the genital mutilations, and other painful shamanistic medical procedures, in proportion to their own emotional armoring and pleasure-anxiety, in order to make children more like themselves: obedient, docile, and reduced in sexual vigor and emotional vitality (Reich 1967, 1973).

See Also


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