BY ALEX P. VIDAL
NEWPORT BEACH, California — Whether it is a doctor or albularyo (quack doctor) toting the scissors, Filipino boys consider it as birthright or duty to undergo circumcision at early age as part of tradition that started way back in the pre-Spanish colonization.
In fact, male circumcision, the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin (prepuce) from the penis, is the source of pride for most Filipino boys entering adolescence. The ritual is more of a badge of glory than implied passport to the men’s club.
Far cry from the standpoint of some residents of San Francisco, California who will vote in an election in November whether to ban circumcision.
California’s Department of Elections certified just over 7,700 signatures gathered by proponents of the ban who aim to outlaw the practice of circumcising males 18 years or younger even despite religious or cultural traditions.
Anyone, including medical practitioners, could face a $1,000 fine and one year in jail if they violate the ban in accordance with the proposal.
If the referendum was applied in the Philippines, Filipinos would mock and scoff at the idea and would never take it seriously; they would view it as invasion of the provinces of religion and culture.
The word “circumcision” or “tuli” in Tagalog comes from Latin circum (meaning “around”) and caedere (meaning “to cut”). Uncircumcised boys passed puberty age usually face taunts and ridicule from playmates who call them as “putyong” in Hiligaynon, “pisot” in Cebuano, or “supot” in Tagalog.
To be branded with such unsavory tag is totally unacceptable for most Filipino boys thus circumcision has been considered a requisite like high school diploma.
Supporters of the ban, meanwhile, argued that the practice of circumcision would “protect all infants and children in San Francisco from the pain and harm caused by forced genital cutting,” according to campaign literature posted on their web site.
Former Senator Juan Flavier was a staunch advocate of circumcision for health reason. He subscribed to the World Health Organization (WHO; 2007), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS; 2007), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 2008) which stated that “there were evidence indicating that male circumcision significantly reduces the risk of HIV acquisition by men during penile-vaginal sex, but also state that circumcision only provides partial protection and should be considered only in conjunction with other proven prevention measures.”
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, male circumcision is widely practised and most often considered to be a sunnah. It is also customary in some Christian churches in Africa, including some Orient 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.
In some cultures, males must be circumcised shortly after birth, during childhood, or around puberty as part of a rite of passage. Circumcision is commonly practised in the Jewish and Islamic faiths.