Male circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the penis. It is widely practised in Judaism, Islam and in some Christian churches in Africa. It is estimated that 30% of males are circumcised globally, usually during adolescence or during infancy.
The practice was adopted in Western civilization around the beginning of the 20th century as a form of preventive medicine against syphilis, phimosis, paraphimosis and balanitis. Reports estimate the prevalence of circumcision among US born males was 91% for males born in the 1970s but the numbers have since been going down. In 1949, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service removed infant circumcision from its list of covered services and the proportion of newborns circumcised in England and Wales has fallen to less than one percent.
In Judaism a Mohel conducts the traditional circumcision ceremony called Brit Milah – “covenant of circumcision”. It is performed on the eighth day after birth. According to the Torah (Genesis, chapter 17 verses 9-14), God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself, his offspring and his slaves as part of an everlasting covenant. Also practised, although more controversial, is metzitzah b’peh, or oral suction, where the mohel sucks blood from the infant’s wounded penis immediately after the circumcision. The traditional reason for this procedure is believed to be promotion of healing. Research has recently suggested that oral suction has been the cause for several cases of herpes infection to infants, in some cases causing brain damage and even death. Some rabbinical authorities have ruled that a glass tube must be used between the mohel’s mouth and the wound to prevent any type of infection of the infant.