Circumcision myths

Myth: Doctors recommend circumcision

Fact: The Royal Australasian College of Physicians does not recommend routine circumcision of infants or minors. No professional organisation of medical doctors anywhere in the world recommends routine circumcision of infants or minors. Circumcision is only recommended in the very rare cases it is medically necessary, such as to remove cancerous or gangrenous tissue.

Myth: Male genital cutting cannot be compared to female genital cutting

Fact: Genital cutting practices differ and the harm caused by different practices exists on a spectrum. This is why the World Health Organisation classifies female genital mutilation into four different types, with multiple subtypes. The excision of the male foreskin is similar to the excision of the female foreskin, which is considered Type Ia female genital mutilation.

Myth: Circumcision isn’t painful

Fact: Circumcision is painful. Infants and children have pain receptors and feel pain just like adults, they just aren’t able to communicate it as well. Babies will often scream during circumcision procedures, and those that are silent are likely in a state of trauma-induced shock. The circumcision wound remains painful for some time after the procedure.

Myth: People who oppose circumcision are anti-Semitic or Islamophobic

Fact: In the developed world male circumcision is most often performed for social rather than religious reasons. Many people who oppose non-consensual, medically unnecessary male circumcision are Jewish or Muslim. Regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof, the vast majority of people who oppose non-consensual, medically unnecessary genital cutting of boys also oppose non-consensual, medically unnecessary genital cutting of girls. Their opposition is based on the harm these procedures cause to children, and the fact these procedures are breach human rights and medical ethics.

Myth: Circumcision prevents HIV

Fact: Circumcision does not prevent HIV transmission – at best it slightly reduces the risk of HIV transmission from females to males; however, this claim is based on three deeply flawed African trials conducted in the mid 2000s. Even if correct, the absolute risk reduction was only 1.3% and their results cannot be applied to developed countries. Moreover, male circumcision has been found to increase HIV transmission from men to women, and the evidence is clear that there is no protective effect for men who have sex with men. Condoms and biomedical prevention such as pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and undetectable viral load remain the best, proven means of reducing HIV risk.

Myth: He will be teased if he isn’t circumcised

Fact: In Australia and most of the developed world, the vast majority of newborn boys are left intact. It is circumcised boys who are the outliers. Studies have shown that even in parts of the USA where the majority of men are circumcised, that teasing most often relates to penis size, not circumcision status, and the few intact men who are teased for their foreskin report that they still prefer having their foreskin.