Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the human penis. It is most often an elective surgery performed on babies and children for cultural or religious reasons. In some cases, it may be done as a treatment option for chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other and other medical conditions.
Circumcision faces ethical and legal questions regarding informed consent and human rights for the circumcision of babies and children. Some of the world’s major medical organizations argue that elective circumcision has some health benefits and outweigh the small risks associated with the procedure, while other organizations consider elective circumcision to have no benefits and significant risks. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends consideration of circumcision as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention program in areas with high rates of HIV, such as in sub-Saharan Africa.
About one-third of males worldwide are circumcised. It is most common among Muslims and Jews, as it is part of religious law in Judaism and is an established practice in Islam. The procedure is also common in the United States and parts of Southeast Asia, and Africa, but is rare in Europe, Latin America, and most of Asia.
The prevalence of circumcision around the world, therefore, varies greatly by country. A study titled “Estimation of country-specific and global prevalence of male circumcision” looked at sources that contained data for mature males that were circumcised. Data was obtained on male circumcision in countries where it is practiced for health, religious, or cultural reasons and in countries where the personal preference of the male or his parents is the determining decision to have the procedure done. Personal preference was more common in Anglophone countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Countries and territories where the prevalence of male circumcision is above 99% are Afghanistan, Iran, Comoros, Gabon, Gambia, the Gaza strip, Mauritania, Morocco, Tajikistan, Tunisia, West Bank, Western Sahara, and Yemen. Prevalence above 90% is seen in Israel, the Philippines, Algeria, Bangladesh, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Samoa, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nauru, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and more.
Prevalence was especially low in Latin American countries and the Caribbean Islands (less than 1%) as well as in European countries (typically 10% or less).
According to a CDC study, the rate of male circumcision in the United States for male newborns decreased between 1979 and 2010 from 64.5% to 58.3%. It is estimated that the overall rate in the United States is about 77%.