Smack in the middle of the front page of Hangzhou’s Metropolitan Express on July 8 was the headline: Summer’s here. Should you cut off your foreskin? Next to the headline was the image shown above, of circumcision demonstrated on a banana.
According to the newspaper, the local children’s hospital is reporting that it is performing the procedure on seventy to eighty children every day:
It is primarily elementary students between the ages of 6 and 12 who get circumcised in the summer. This is not a rare procedure; according to surgery records at the provincial children’s hospital, 3,500 children were circumcised last year, and this year’s number had passed 2,000 by the end of June.
The three-page feature inside the paper reads like an information pamphlet from the Children’s Hospital of Zhejiang University College of Medicine (浙江大学医学院附属儿童医院, popularly known as Provincial Child Care, 省儿保).
It’s got testimonials from a father who suffered foreskin discomfort as a child, a mother who chose to put her young son through the ordeal because her 12-year-old nephew got all swollen “down there” because he was too embarrassed to tell anyone, and the hospital’s Director of Urology, who recommends circumcision for males aged anywhere from three weeks to their mid-twenties (if necessary, of course).
Then there are the health benefits of circumcision: a reduced risk of HIV infection and lower rates of penile and cervical cancer (the last by a 20% reduction in HPV infection rates).
And finally, there’s the issue of keeping pace with the international community:
43.09% of Urban Chinese Males Have Long Foreskins
In Chinese Andrology, the Kunming Male Circumcision Cooperative Research Group published a paper arguing that it is imperative that China promote circumcision.
According to a report from the WHO, 665 million men in the world have been circumcised, roughly 30% of the male population. In some countries, male circumcision rates are roughly 80%.
Reports published between 1997 and 2007 show that among urban males in this country, 43.09% have foreskins that are too long, and 8.99% have phimosis. But although a very high proportion ought to be circumcised, the actual circumcision rate is only 2.66%.
Director of Urology Xu Shan said that circumcision is a mature procedure that requires just 10-15 minutes under anesthesia and leaves no obvious scars. Stitches can be removed in just a week. In addition, circumcision has a long history. Tomb art from Egypt’s Sixth Dynasty (2,345-2,181 BC) contains a depiction of two standing men getting circumcised. Male circumcision is recognized as one of humanity’s most ancient and most common surgical procedures.
As for the possible impact on sensation and sexual performance, the article reports that experts disagree. However, says Xu Shan, “If you have a problem, the earlier you go to the hospital, the better. Otherwise, it will definitely affect sexual function.”
At the end there’s a FAQ that answers the most pressing question:
Q: How much does circumcision cost?
A: To get the procedure performed at Provincial Child Care, the surgery fee is 210 RMB, materials are around 200 RMB, anesthetic is 400 plus RMB, giving a total of around 800 RMB.