Surgical modification of the external genitalia. This ancient custom has been practiced in various forms on members of both sexes in many cultures since Neolithic times. Male genital mutilation has been a tribal custom in many cultures since prehistoric times. It usually consists of circumcision, excision of the prepuce, which may be done in infancy, early childhood, or around the time of adolescence as an initiation rite. It is an essential feature of the religious customs of Jews and Moslems. In some cultures, such as certain tribes of Australian Aborigines, other forms of male genital mutilation have been practiced, e.g., subincision, which consists of incising the urethra, so urine and ejaculated sperm emerge from the junction of the scrotum and the base of the penis. Female genital mutilation is also an ancient practice that appears to have developed, perhaps several millennia ago, in northeast Africa as a tribal custom aimed to ensure the purity and chastity of girls.
Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.