The theory of circumcision
Publish Date: Jun 23, 2014
  • mail
  • img

By Gwada Ogot

Circumcision remains a most contentious practice since its recorded introduction in Egypt, about 2400 years ago, and attracts diametrically conflicting positions, between those who eschew the practice, and those who don’t.

Though three narratives are popularly used to explain circumcision- medical, religious, and cultural- more as validators than root causes- circumcision discourses routinely attract ethno-cultural and political profiling, religious stereo-typing, and notably, instances of intellectual gerrymandering and bluster.

The theory of circumcision however submits that circumcision was occasioned by a single dynamic – lack of fresh water - and subsequently the unhygienic conditions arising from irregular ablution.

Irregular ablution occasions, bad odor, thrush, cystitis, and other poor sanitation infections, which diminish libidos and stifle sexual concert with the main malefactors being unwashed and accumulated smegma or poorly managed menstruation.

Relatedly, non-circumcising groups are commonly settled around large fresh water bodies, as those which practice circumcision are settled far from fresh water bodies.

Circumcision is also exclusive to Abrahamic religions- Islam, Judaism and Christianity, which trace their origins to the Middle East- a largely desert area with low rainfall, while religions such as- Hinduism and Buddhism- which originate from river Valleys, make absolutely no mention of circumcision.

Indeed, the prescription of mid-teen-age years for circumcision is preemptively designed, to prepare teenagers for healthy relationships devoid of any stigmatising claims of uncleanliness or sexual deficiency from partners.

Likewise, associating circumcision with courage is a social construct premeditated to forestall high incidences of fleeing surgery without anesthesia, as well as to obligate compliance.

Regular sunshine is another critical factor. It is vital to the production of Melanocyte Stimulating Hormones (MSH) and the feel good neurotransmitters- dopamine and serotonin- which boost sexual appetite and elevate reproduction. Both are produced more in the brain during sunnier periods.

As such, dwellers in areas with regular sunshine are likely to be more sexually driven than their counterparts from the colder regions, a more credible account for the higher incidences of HIV-Aids in sunnier areas than the incredible World Health Organization linkage of the foreskin to the spread of HIV-Aids.

Furthermore, cold weather causes shrinking of the penile shaft, thereby impeding sexual appetite and fulfillment, a cocktail of factors possibly accounting for the instances of heavy alcohol consumption and high crime rates- especially crimes of passion- common to these areas, as manifestations of sexual frustration.

The practice of circumcision in two neighboring nations- Uganda and Kenya- vividly illustrates the connection between water and circumcision.

Uganda covers about 241,139 Km2, with 44 000 Km2 being under open water or swampland, through a spread of 24 lakes and 18 rivers.

Of the nation’s 63 communities, only two circumcise- the Sabiny and Bagisu. Both are settled in the Mount Elgon area, a distance away from any major natural fresh water body.

Even in the highland regions of Western Uganda, none of the communities within the Rwenzururu mountain ranges culturally circumcise, because their water supply is guaranteed by 12 lakes and eight rivers.

This scenario sharply contrasts with that of Kenya.

Kenya covers about 580,367 km2 of land, with only 11,227 km2 being under natural water bodies. Of her total 10 rivers and nine lakes, four are either alkaline or saline, Elementaita, Bogoria, Magadi, and Nakuru.

No wonder, only three of the nearly 70 communities in Kenya - the Luo, Turkana and Iteso do not circumcise- an almost reverse position to Uganda.

All are settled in north rift valley and Lake Victoria basins- locations of the main natural fresh water bodies in Kenya- even though the Iteso also fall within the vast Kyoga swampland that stretches from far beyond Usuk in Eastern Uganda to Western Kenya.

To the North of Africa – the harsh desert conditions of the sprawling Sahara compel circumcision; just as in Southern Africa- the expansive Kalahari Desert- situations re-affirming the central role of water in circumcision.

So for all the 2,400 year controversy about the root causes of circumcision, is it water that ultimately explains why some communities practice circumcision and why others do not?

Gwada Ogot is a researcher and elections expert and has conducted over 21 election observation missions across sub Saharan Africa.


The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Makerere should negotiate with Parents, Guardians to reduce fees strikes
This week has been horrendous. There has been student unrest at Makerere and Kyambogo Universities respectively. For Makerere, it marks another vehemently ugly tale that has come to keep haunting the University each time important steps are made in her advancement as a premier institution in the co...
Empower the girl child
Uganda will on 11th Oct join the world to commemorate the third ever International day of the girl child. The national celebration premised on the global theme “The power of the adolescent girl, Vision 2030,” is based on one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were launched on 25th Sep...
NGOs in Development
As Ugandans pay homage to the thousands of people who sacrificed their lives so that the citizenry can always celebrate the end of colonialism, it’s becomes significant to thank the government too, for its steady leadership under the guidance of President Museveni that has provided an enabling grou...
Access to information vital for fight against graft
Uganda recently joined the rest of the African Union and Member states in marking September 28th as the International Right to Information Day....
Latigo: I am not on Amama’s campaign team!
Last Monday, many people spoke to me in tongues. I did not know that they had read the Red Pepper newspaper allegation that I was to head the presidential campaign of Amama Mbabazi (JPAM) in Northern Uganda....
The rise of corruption is the fall of economic development
Corruption has been around us from time immemorial, it has since then established itself world over. According to me corruption is a summarized meaning of broad day robbery, misappropriation of public funds, being self centered about a national matter, failure to deliver services as expected and th...
Should Makerere University fees policy be reviewed?
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter