Religious leaders ask Malawi’s circumcised men: ‘Zip up those pants!’

Religious leaders in Malawi are strongly advising the country’s male community not to take circumcision as a license of engaging into promiscuous behavior by taking advantage of the researches that indicated reduction of chances of getting HIV to men whose sexual reproductive organs have gone under the knife.

Some religions, such as Islam, consider circumcision part of religious practice, while other people choose circumcision for possible health benefits – including a reduced risk of urinary tract infections.

Speaking during the panel discussion program Wednesday night aired on the privately owned radio, Zodiak  on circumcision which was organized by Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association (MIAA), the panelists said while research indicate the practice has a chance of preventing 60 percent of the infection, people should not ignore God’s rules concerning sexual behaviors.

Revered Father George Buleya, who represented the Christian community, said  while Christianity has nothing to do with circumcision, it is worrisome that some people go to cut their foreskins  so that they can engage into sexual activities without fear of contracting HIV without considering  teachings of the Bible which speak against promiscuity.

Father Buleya: Zip up
Father Buleya: Zip up
Jambo: No to immoral behaviour

“As a Catholic church we have nothing against circumcision since it’s voluntary and medical,” said Fr Buleya.

“ It is nothing as indeed in 1 Corinthians 7, 18…which says ‘circumcision is nothing’ but obeying the commandment of god is everything; in this case being faithful to those with partners and abstinence from sexual intercourse to those with no partners,” he said.

Buleya said Christians are not however forbidden to go for circumcision but they should also consider obeying Gods word.

However, Saiti Jambo from Quadria Muslims Association of Malawi, who represented the Muslims community, said it is expected for any Muslim to be circumcised but he concurred with Buleya that promiscuity is forbidden.

“Islam is a way of life and it requires a child to be circumcised between 7 and 21 days after his birth,” said Jambo.

“If we take Islam which is a way of life, it doesn’t mean that after being circumcised one can start doing all sorts of things. It teaches us to remain in the dictates of Islam which prohibits promiscuity because it saw that when one gets into such behaviors he can also contract diseases,” he said

Jambo however quashed assertions that circumcision encouraged promiscuity as some research show that HIV infections are more prevalent in Muslim dominated districts like Mangochi, Salima and Nkhota-kota,  arguing that the problem is that people tend to mix culture with religion.

“There is the problem of mixing religion with culture. Islam is a religion whereas in Mangochi, for example, there are tribes like Yaos, Lomwes, Tonga and all sorts of people. So when doing the research there is a need for  a golden rule so at the meantime we cannot know  whether the research findings are true or not,” he said.

Jambo  there is a huge possibility that some HIV infections are because of migration issues, saying there are a lot of men in the mentioned districts who go to South Africa and leave their wives behind for a quite long time.

“Most of people from these areas go to South African where they are also engaged in immoral act that lead to contraction of HIV which they later give their wives back home. The same applies to the wives they leave behind here, who after staying for four years without a husband  they indulge in immoral behaviors and contract HIV,” he said.

However, some contributors to the program challenged the circumcision by quoting some biological researches  showing that the foreskin is an important part of the male reproductive organ and that its removal leads to considerable limitation to sexual life and cause psychological stress in men.

In response, Dr Mwai Makoka from Christian Health Association of Malawi, said while the biological research findings may be true, but as is the case with Malawi HIV where infection is on higher side it would be important to put the two issues on scale and find our which one is more beneficial.

“As a nation we are the cross roads, where we have this pandemic so the way we can reduce the infection is by adopting male circumcision.  So it seems that on a public health scale it is more benefit to circumcise people,” he said.

Makoka however agreed that there are indeed lobby groups for circumcised people now in western countries who want to claim back their foreskins because they feel were injured or robbed of [other sexual] pressures.

The only female panelist during the discussion Pilira Ndaferankhande, who is a  programs officer responsible for monitoring and evaluation at MIAA, said some circumcised  men indulge into promiscuity  because of what she called ‘myths’ about what people say that when one is circumcised he makes woman feel good in bed.

She however said circumcision is good because it prevents women from getting cervical cancer.

In his concluding remarks, Executive Director for MIAA, Robert Ngaiyaye, encouraged those seeking to go for circumcision to go to the hospitals. He however asked those doing circumcision on religious grounds to use one knife per child to avoid further spread of the virus.

The live radio debate program was funded by the National AIDS Commission.

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