Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 15, No. 29 (May, 2007), pp. 15-21.
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This paper seeks to add balance and context to current debates concerning male circumcision. It questions the value neutrality of an act so profound in its social significance and so rich in meaning. It highlights how male circumcision – like its counterpart female genital mutilation – is nearly always a strongly political act, enacted upon others by those with power, in the broader interests of a public good but with profound individual and social consequences. A vast deal has been written on this subject by sociologists, anthropologists, historians and psychoanalysts, among others, which I will only touch upon here, yet in its current global incarnation for HIV prevention, male circumcision is being talked of as if it were the most trivial and inconsequential of matters. “Just a little snip” was how one participant in one of the recent WHO/UNAIDS consultative meetings on male circumcision described it.