Ritual and Medical Circumcision among Filipino boys: Evidence of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

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by Samuel Ramos and Gregory Boyle


A total of 3,253 boys aged 11 to 16 years took part in this study of the psychological effects associated with circumcision procedures (medical vs. ritual circumcision) in the Philippines. Participants were recruited from five different schools in the Batangas province upon securing permission from appropriate authorities (human rights chair, school principals, class advisers and the children’s parents or guardians). The boys completed a two-part questionnaire. The preliminary part requested biographical information including any history of other traumatic events, and their perception of the circumcision experience. The second part assessed the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Some 1,577 boys satisfied the prescribed criteria (1,072 boys were circumcised under medical procedures; 505 boys were subjected to ritual circumcision) and were followed-up to ascertain whether the perceived trauma from genital cutting developed into symptoms of PTSD. Almost 70% of boys subjected to ritual circumcision and 51% of those subjected to medical circumcision fulfilled the DSM-IV criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD.