I. Definition and distribution1) Definition
There are mainly four forms of male circumcision:
type: This type consists of cutting away in part or in totality the skin of the penis that goes beyond the glans. This skin is called foreskin or prepuce.2
type: This type is practiced mainly by the Jews. The circumciser takes firm grip of the foreskinwith his left hand. Having determined the amount to be removed, he clamps a shield on it to protect the glans from injury. The knife is then taken in the right hand and the foreskin isamputated with one sweep along the shield. This part of the operation is called the
. It revealsthe mucous membrane (inner lining of the foreskin), the edge of which is then grasped firmly between the thumbnail and index finger of each hand and is torn down the centre as far as thecorona. This second part of the operation is called
. It is traditionally performed by thecircumciser with his sharpened fingernails.3
type: This type involves completely peeling the skin of the penis and sometimes the skin of thescrotum and pubis. It existed (and probably continues to exist) among some tribes of South Arabia.Jacques Lantier describes a similar practice in black Africa, in the Namshi tribe.4
type: This type consists in a slitting open of the urinary tube from the scrotum to the glans,creating in this way an opening that looks like the female vagina. Called subincision, this type of circumcision is still performed by the Australian aborigines.
There are also four forms of female circumcision:
type: This type is excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris.2
type: This type consists of excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labiaminora.3
type: This type includes excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/ narrowingof the vaginal opening (infibulation).4
type: This category includes all other types including pricking, piercing or incising of theclitoris and/or labia; stretching of the clitoris and/or labia; cauterising by burning of the clitoris andsurrounding tissue; scraping of tissue surrounding the vaginal orifice or cutting of the vagina; theintroduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or for the purposeof tightening or narrowing it; and any other procedure that falls under the definition of femalegenital mutilation given above.
2) Figures and geographical distribution
Truly reliable figures on the extent of male and female circumcision in the world do notexist.In 1996, during the 4
international symposium held in Lausanne, the following figures weredistributed: every year, 13,300,000 male children are circumcised in the world. This makesan average of 1,100,000 children per month, 36,438 children per day, 1,518 children per hour and 25 children per minute. Another source indicates that 23% of the male populationof the world is circumcised, which makes a total of 650 million. Male circumcision is practiced on all male Jews and Muslims, to the exception of a small number of children.Besides the Jews and the Muslims, a certain number of Christians practice male circumcisionespecially the Christians of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Their coreligionists in other Arabcountries, such as Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, are rarely circumcised. There areindications that Christians of Palestine began circumcising children. In addition to theChristians already mentioned, it is necessary to mention the phenomenon of malecircumcision in Anglo-Saxon Western countries. Sources agree that the USA is the westerncountry with the highest circumcision rate: 70% in 2001. The rate of circumcision in theWestern countries of Europe is low, less than 2%. In South Korea, more than 90% of malesare circumcised because of the influence of the US Army there.3