Hindu Vivek Kendra
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It's time to dispense with the voodoo politics of the good condom and the guilty foreskin

It's time to dispense with the voodoo politics of the good condom and the guilty foreskin

Author: Kevin Myers
Publication: The Independent
Date: August 5, 2009
URL: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/its-time-to-dispense-with-the-voodoo-politics-of-the-good-condom-and-the-guilty-foreskin-1850900.html

Voodoo is an African word, but not an African monopoly. Every society has its own voodoo -- a fear of some mysterious ailment which can only be cured by magical means.

The latest proposal by the World Health Organisation to control the AIDS epidemic in Africa by circumcising males is just another voodoo. However, the disproportionate number of women scientists urging this "solution" does suggest a bizarre twist -- some feminists, for obvious, if largely subconscious reasons, rather like the idea of male genital mutilation. Furthermore, the hygiene argument (usually used tendentiously) justifying male circumcision could equally apply to the female labia, and more especially, to the fingernails of both sexes.

About a year ago, I got into a spot of bother when I wrote that one of Africa's problems lay in its large numbers of priapic young male layabouts. It's an obvious truth, but ours is not a society which likes dealing with obvious truths, preferring to take comfort in the pious voodoo-fictions that Africa's problems are caused by European imperialism, apartheid and the lack of western aid.

If I were to repeat that column today, not many would care to differ, never mind call me a Nazi, as some brainless cretin in 'The Irish Daily Mail' did, nor seek to get me imprisoned, as did another equally brainless cretin from the National Migrant Council. For a recent survey of South African men has shown that 28pc of them had raped a woman or girl, and 3pc had raped a man or a boy. Almost half of these rapists had raped more than once, and nearly 75pc of them were under 20 at the time of their first rape. Moreover, the survey showed men who raped were also most likely to consort with prostitutes, and were less likely to use condoms.

Well, one reassuring aspect of all this is that rapists were twice as likely as non-rapists to die from AIDS. The downside is that so too were their victims, though in dear old South Africa, they are not always seen as victims. When the president, the gallant Jacob Zuma, was being tried for rape, his supporters gathered outside the courthouse, verbally abusing his HIV-infected accuser, singing, "Burn the bitch, burn the bitch". (How very charming. And how very less circumspectly the western media would have treated these stories if the leader accused of rape had been an Afrikaaner, and the ethnic group that had admitted to 28pc levels of rape, and had so colourfully abused the accuser, had been white).

I grow weary here, so let me conclude with this. A six-month-old baby who was gang raped in North Cape a couple of years ago (many African men believing that sex with a virgin can cure a man of AIDS) had subsequently to have a colostomy. The rapists walked free. And the trade union Solidarity reports that a child is raped every three minutes in South Africa. Now please, please, tell me what difference the presence or absence of a flap of skin on the penis can possibly make to the health of these African women and children?

Surveys in Uganda suggest that transmission rates of HIV/AIDS from women to circumcised men in consensual sex are 50pc those of uncircumcised. But a further -- and almost Mengelianly ghoulish experiment -- showed that circumcised men with HIV infected their partners at the same rate as did uncircumcised men. Well, what a surprise: and I trust the people who conducted these experiments, instead of telling the infected to refrain from penetrative sex completely, were satisfied with the outcome.

It's deeply unfashionable to say this, but the Pope was right when he insisted that condoms are not the answer to Africa's AIDS pandemic. For condoms have to be used every time -- and even then, they have a failure rate of 10pc.

This is a small problem when condoms are used as contraceptives, because the chances are that these accidents will happen when the woman is not fertile. But she is always vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. After having had safe condom-sex nine times, actuarially, what are her chances of completing an uninfected sexual act? How many days does it take healthy young people to have sex 10 times?

How are intact condoms to be distributed thro-ughout the townships and the remote villages of sub-Saharan Africa? Finally, how many of the 28pc of South African hearties who rape will henceforth thoughtfully don a condom beforehand?

It's all voodoo: the voodoo of the good condom, and the voodoo of the guilty foreskin. And this latter is, paradoxically, a voodoo that is common to the most advanced societies in the world -- the US, Israel -- and the most backward, Somalia and Sudan.

It is one thing for an adult to choose to be circumcised, though little good will it do him if he chooses then to have unprotected promiscuous sex (as many newly-circumcised African males do). It is quite another thing for the World Health Organisation to encourage people to rob little boys of their foreskins for "public health" reasons.

To do that is to mutilate him forever, and all in the name of a very dangerous ancient/modern voodoo, that this year has killed 53 boys in Cape Province alone.

- kmyers@independent.ie

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