The practice of removing some or all of the foreskin (prepuce) from the penis is called circumcision. The word circumcision itself comes from two Latin words; circum (meaning "around") and caedere (meaning "to cut"). Although usually thought of as pertaining to males, circumcision is also sometimes associated with females and refers to a variety of procedures performed on the female genitalia. Circumcision is usually performed for religious, cultural, and medical reasons. In some cases, elective adult circumcision is performed for body modification or aesthetic reasons.
The oldest records of circumcision being performed date back to ancient Egypt. It was also widely used by Semitic peoples, Greeks and Romans, although it was not considered mandatory and some people rejected the practice.
Currently, Judaism and Islam are the leading religions that see circumcision as a mandatory practice for their followers, although Judaism attaches a greater religious significance to the act. Unless there are health reasons that force a delay, all Jewish male children are circumcised eight days after their birth. While some Islamic communities also observe the eighth day practice of Judaism, many clerics are less formal about the exact time of circumcision. One difference between the two religious practices is that Jewish males are circumcised by a religious figure called "mohel", while in modern Muslim communities like Iran, male children have circumcision performed in hospitals.
Although members of the Coptic Christian and Ethiopian Orthodox churches still observe circumcision as mandatory, the Roman Catholic Church rejected this practice at the Council of Florence in 1442.
Used as a sort of passage rite for young males, circumcision is also very common in a number of African and Australian Aboriginal religious traditions. Sometimes circumcision represents a removal of the "feminine" aspects of the male as seen in some West African groups such as the Dogon and Dowayo. Other West Africans, like the Nilotic people, hold periodical circumcision ceremonies that are used to group young males in age sets.
The only countries that still practice circumcision routinely on a majority of their male population for non-religious reasons are the United States, the Philippines and South Korea. The practice in South Korea is largely the result of American cultural and military influence following the Korean War.
Posted by PRS
Monday, June 26th, 2006
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