In the Philippines, the “circumcision period” has finally begun

Selangor, Philippines For more than a year, Caspian Gruda was ridiculed by his comrades. At age 12, he has not yet been circumcised, and for thousands of young Filipinos, the corona virus is delayed, reaching the age of this ancestral ritual.

“I worry, because if I can’t get circumcised, I will be ashamed,” Kruta admits.

The Philippines has one of the highest circumcision rates in the world, which is increasingly controversial in many countries, with critics likening it to abuse.

Boys who are rarely questioned in the Philippines are strongly encouraged to succumb to this cultural and secular habit. Every year, thousands of elderly people from poor families are operated on for free in government hospitals.

But last year, for the first time in decades, the “circumcision period” did not take place. Corona virus infection has delayed this important moment for many boys like Krita.

These boys who have been teased by the men of their family and their friends are waiting impatiently for this moment to be immature.

Gruda, one of the oldest boys standing in line at an indoor basketball court that has been converted into a makeshift hospital in Selangor, south of Manila, has been undergoing surgery since May.

“Now, I have the idea of ​​being a real Filipino because circling is part of the Philippine identity,” the boy greets himself after a quick twenty-minute intervention.

Boys sit in plastic chairs and wait for their turn, with their faces covered with masks to protect themselves from COVID-19. Some do not hide their excitement, while others reflect indifference when shaking their chair.

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After taking off their shorts, they lay down on a simple wooden table. Their outstretched legs hang in the air and a functional field covers their abdomen.

During local anesthesia, they bite a piece or cover the eyes. Then, the surgeon removes the psoriasis in a few minutes.

“Become a Man”

“I was circumcised because I was told I would be taller and better at sports,” said 12-year-old Almar Alciro, who underwent the procedure at another open-air hospital.

His family could not afford to go to a private hospital, where the operation would cost up to 12,000 pesos (about $ 250), which is more than the monthly income of many Filipinos.

As he waited for months for surgery, Alciro’s friends laughed at him, calling him “uncircumcised,” which is synonymous with cowardice in the Philippine national language, talaq. “I’m happy because I was finally circumcised,” he congratulates Algiro at the end of the intervention.

The roots of this practice go back many centuries to the survival of colonial rule in Spain and later in the United States.

Circumcision is more common in countries with large Muslim or Jewish communities, and less so in mainly Catholic countries.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 90% of the male population in the Philippines is circumcised.

From the age of 8, boys are under social pressure to go into the hands of a surgeon. Hospitals even call them “dare to become men” through advertisements.

The “circumcision period” is usually from April to June during the summer holidays. Hundreds of boys are operated on outside at one-day intervals, but measures against Covit-19 have dramatically reduced the number of people who undergo this procedure.

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Many areas most affected by the corona virus do not yet offer this free service. These delays are not without consequences.

According to Nestor Castro, professor of anthropology at the University of the Philippines, circumcision refers to the “transition from childhood to adulthood” when young people assume greater responsibility within the family and find sexuality.

“Once a boy is circumcised, he leaves the world of childhood and is considered an adult,” Mr Castro said. “If you were a circumcised man … you would have to behave like an adult, not like a boy anymore.”

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