The act of removing the foreskin from the penis, creating no sheath or hooded penis head.
Generally a religious practice, involving the ritualistic removal of the foreskin from the male child, usually at birth. This is usually done by a simple procedure, of snipping the foreskin, and trimming it so that the penis head is not covered. It can be the total removal of foreskin, or partial removal.
Under Jewish Law, it is a requirement, with prescribed times frames and rituals. Conversion to Judaism requires this act, irrespective of age. In fact, under Judaic Law, if a male dies, and is not circumcised, it is considered required that the act be performed, prior to burial. This is the only allowed body modification granted for a deceased, under Judaic Laws.
While it is called a covenant by Abraham, in Islam circumcision is not a strict requirement. It is not mentioned in the Qur'an, but is in the hadith. Some sects of Islam believe it is required, as in Judaic Law, while others merely say it is recommended.
Various other Tribes or Cultures have some form of circumcision within their 'Rites of Passage' from childhood into adulthood. This can vary in ages, in which the ritual is performed at.
During the 19th and early 20th Centuries, circumcision was believed to be a medical necessity, in the battle against germs, and disease. The uncut penis was perceived as being 'dirty' and so the removal of the added skin, was thought to help correct that carrier of germs, and disease.
In fact, it was believed that by performing circumcision, it would prevent the transmission, or occurrence of certain sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis.
Some physicians of the time, used circumcision as a means of preventing and treating masturbation in males, which was considered unhealthy and dirty at the time.
History (Legend): Oldest record of circumcision comes from Ancient Egypt, and was found to be most common in that region, until the conquest by Alexander the Great. It is believed that due to the Greek Reluctance for such procedures, it declined.
There are many reasons for the possible use of circumcision in Ancient Civilization, specially areas such as Egypt. In some instances it was for the removal of supposed 'feminine traits' that the foreskin may have been seen as.
In other cultures it was to enhance the male organ, to prove that the male was a true Man. For some it was generally performed in front of others, to witness their passage from child to man.
Others claim it was for increasing the sexual pleasure of the male, during sex.
There are those who claim that a cut penis is more sensitive, thus any sexual activity is more pleasurable for both parties. While there are some tests/studies to prove that theory, there are also other tests/studies that debunk it as being nothing but a myth.
Practice (Ethics): There are some advocates who claim that this procedure is traumatic for the infant, and most physicians recommend using a mild form of anesthesia.
There is also some controversy, in that some doctors claim that the performance of this act, for unnecessary reasons, creates a sort of stress or unhealthy emotions in the subject, later on in life. It creates an association of violence to the penis, or gives them a feeling of abandonment by the parents.
In some instances, they claim it gives many feelings of being sexually abused as children, which they are unable to overcome as adults. They further argue that it is a violation of one's individual rights, for which a Parent does not have jurisdiction over.
A Finnish Court in 2006 found that it was illegal for a 4 year old's parents to have had him circumcised.
Noteworthy: Modern Medicine in the United States, Canada, Australia, etc. no longer advocate circumcision upon new born male children. They claim there is no actual benefit to it, though they contradict themselves, in that they also claim that circumcised males suffer less risk of penile cancer, or in transmitting of various diseases, including HIV.
While nations like Canada and the United Kingdom began to stop paying for such procedures under their National Health programs, and the practice lessened, in South Korea it actually increased.
Since the Korean War, and the influence of American culture on the divided nation, it is believed that approximately 90% of Korean school children are circumcised, and unlike other Westernized Nations, the average age for circumcision is 12, not at infant status.
World Figures, estimates at best, claim anywhere from a full third to a sixth of the males in the world are circumcised. Korea is believed to have the highest number, at approximately 74% for all males.
The United States on the other hand estimates about 55% to as high as 79% of males are being circumcised. It does not say how many actually are, overall.
Rates are also on the rise in Africa, while on the decline elsewhere. The rise in African circumcision is due to the belief that a circumcised penis will transmit the HIV virus less, than a uncircumcised penis. In fact, the Malaysian owned National Newspaper actually claims that circumcision prevents the HIV/AIDS virus from being transmitted.
This is in stark contrast to Denmark, that has a circumcision rate of about 1.6% of males, by age 15 of being cut.
Recent studies indicate that the transmission of viruses, such as the HIV/AIDS virus is reduced among males who are circumcised, further fueling the fires between those who claim there is no medical reason for such procedures, and those who advocate it.
Both WHO and UNAIDS released an announcement claiming that circumcision is a practical and valuable method of helping to prevent the transmission, though they were clear to point out that it was only a PARTIAL measure, that other protective measures, such as condoms, should be used.
Also this was confirmed by the CDC. However, in all instances it should be noted, this was in reference of the virus being transmitted from Women to Men, through penile/vaginal contact. It doesn't not reflect how circumcision would effect the transmission from male to female, or from male to male, engaging in anal sex.