The gospel of surgical male circumcision — celebrated for minimising chances of contracting HIV in men, protection against the contraction of cervical cancer and prolonging sexual pleasure in women, voices, enhancing sexual pleasure – has won over many believers among men.
Report by Jairos Saunyama
Richard (27) embraced the message and went “under the knife”, but was disappointed when his wife took him to task over his decision to get circumcised.
“She called me all sorts of names that night and accused me of being unfaithful. She wanted to know why I got circumcised when she was my only wife,” he said.
This is the most difficult question most circumcised men are facing as their wives interrogate them on the issue of circumcision.
“Why should he get circumcised? I am his only wife and where is he going to get the virus from? Circumcision fuels infidelity in men. I don’t like it at all,” said Tariro, a 26-year-old woman from Budiriro.
Opinion is divided on the matter. While health experts are preaching the advantages of circumcision, some women have interpreted this new “gospel” as offering their husbands the blank cheque to engage in risky behaviour as they tend to believe they are safe.
However, with massive educational campaigns nationwide, other women are slowly embracing the concept as campaigners continue to stress that circumcision does not make men immune to HIV infection.
“I didn’t want my husband to get circumcised until he did it and came home without the foreskin. I thought maybe he was being promiscuous, but through experiencing what he has become after circumcision, I can tell you that half of our problems in the bedroom are gone,” said Enia Maramba from Kadoma.
She said her friends had also told her that once a husband was circumcised, he would interpret that as a licence to be promiscuous.
“I think what the doctors say is true about circumcision; there are more benefits for women than for men,” said Maramba.
Population Services International male circumcision (MC) manager Roy Dhlamini is on record on the benefits of circumcision.
“There are more benefits for women in having their male counterparts circumcised because if not, the male organ accumulates remnants from the discharges he makes and if such a man sexually engages a woman several times, she ends up suffering from cervical cancer,” he said.
A few months ago some male politicians took part in the circumcision process which they all described as the best way to go.
“I have just gone through male circumcision and it was such an experience so much that I wish all youths in Zimbabwe between the ages of 13 and 29 would follow suit. While I was lying on bed and the doctors were cutting my instrument, thoughts just came to me that my wife went through it when she was giving birth and she had stitches too,” said Paul Mazikana, Mbire MP (Zanu PF).
Mazikana was among MPs who underwent voluntary public HIV testing while 19 of them were circumcised in an effort to eliminate stigma as a way of fighting the HIV pandemic in June this year.
“I have gone through it. I would like to urge all the youths to do the same and get circumcised, its painless,” said Mazikana after going under the knife.
In the past, only a few communities in Zimbabwe practiced circumcision, which was regarded as a rite of passage through which young people were ushered into manhood and womanhood. It was until the Arabs arrived in the country for trade before colonialism that more local tribes embraced Islamic practices including circumcision. These included the Varemba who embraced Islam, with most of them now located in the Masvingo and Buhera areas.
Other groups that practice circumcision in Zimbabwe are Chewa or Yao people originally from Malawi, mainly because at one time their forefathers were Muslims with such practices. Today the Muslim world across the globe boast that there is less HIV and sexually transmitted infections in their countries with Egypt recording less than 3% HIV prevalence and most of the women in the country do not contract cervical cancer.
Scientific trials have shown that male circumcision can reduce a man’s risk of becoming infected with HIV during heterosexual intercourse by up to 60%.
These findings have led to the decision by UNAids and the World Health Organisation to recommend circumcision as an important new element of HIV prevention. Since the decision was made demand for circumcision has been increasing.
In Zimbabwe, 700 men requested to be circumcised within just two weeks after government rolled out of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) services for HIV prevention.
Mathematical models have predicted that one new HIV infection could be averted for every 5 to 15 men who are newly circumcised. It has also been suggested that six million new HIV infections and three million deaths could be prevented in 20 years if all men in sub-Saharan Africa became circumcised.