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Tug of foreskin

By | May 29th 2010 | 5 min read

By Hellen Miseda

If men who naturally do not have a womb can be allowed to speak the loudest on the abortion debate, then women too deserve a say when it comes to what happens to their men’s members.

If you agree with this justification, then you can understand my friend Peris’s outburst when her husband appeared home one day with a bandage immaculately tied around his penis.

Since she was not briefed on anything, Peris noticed this ‘new development’ as her husband was changing into his pajamas.

"What’s with the bandage?" She asked with awe.

"Oh! I decided to go for the cut because I hear it reduces the chances of getting HIV and improves the sex life," came the man’s casual answer.

"What do you mean you went to be circumcised?" she protested.

Her logic is that the penis is not some simple organ like an ear, which a man can just go and cut without his woman’s knowledge. This is a critical organ that affects a woman as much as it does a man and women have a right to know what happens to it.

My friend says she would not have refused because she knows it has health benefits. She just wanted to be involved.

These and many more are some of the intricate bedroom tiffs springing up as the Government rolls out the voluntary Kenya National Male Circumcision Programme.

Six weeks without sex

After landmark studies in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa showed that male circumcision dramatically reduces a man’s chances of being infected with HIV, the Government rolled out the programme in 2008 with the pilot scheme in Nyanza Province.

Much as the programme is highly successful, some women are taking offence with the way their men are "secretly undertaking the process" even as others do not know how to convince their men "with egos the size of Jupiter" to go for the cut.

National Aids/Sexually Transmitted Diseases Programme (Nascop) Head Dr Nicholas Muraguri says before a man undertakes the procedure, mutual agreement is critical so that the woman can understand why she will have to wait for six weeks for the wound to heal before the two can have sex.

The doctor elaborates: "A man who is single can go for the cut without consulting anybody. But a married man should at least tell his wife because six weeks is a long time without sex. So the woman should be okay with the whole idea."

Public Health Minister, Beth Mugo, also emphasises that women should be involved wholesomely because they need to understand the importance of the six-week abstinence period.

"Research shows that women are happier after a circumcision. So if it is explained to them, they will support it fully," says the minister in a promotional video.


The Bible in Mark 10:8 clearly states that when a man and woman decide to walk the marriage path, the two shall become one and so it figures that a woman would be upset if this transformation is sprung on her.

Betty A, a resident of Kisumu, who was lucky her husband told her about it says: "I am a major stakeholder in that organ and I need to be consulted whenever any major decision is taken regarding it."

Martin O, 28, from Nyanza, shares how he broached the subject with his wife: "At first she was not happy with the whole idea; she thought I was doing it so that I can be promiscuous. But I explained to her that it makes the organ clean and reduces the risk of infections. She allowed me to go and is now enjoying sex even more."

Robert O, also from Nyanza Province, says he thought it would be wise to share his intentions with his wife first to avoid misunderstandings that may spring up.

Robert’s wife expounds: "My husband sat me down and explained to me the health benefits of the process and I totally supported him. Now our intimate moments are ecstatic."

But Peter O, a 34-year-old married Luo man who went for the process without informing his wife wonders what the hubbub is all about.

He offers: "Why should I consult her. It’s my body and I have the right to do whatever I want with it."

Ethuro, a Sabaot man, 35, agrees. He says he has every right to go for the cut without telling his spouse.

He avers: "I am the head of the house and can do whatever I want with any part of my body without seeking anybody’s permission, even my wife’s. But if she wants to go for the cut she has to inform me. That is the authority God gave us."

Pastor Elly Wesonga underscores the importance of involving your spouse in both the minor and major decisions you undertake.

"It’s a matter of courtesy to tell her if you are going to be circumcised. Even if you are going for a minor operation like removal of the tonsils, you need to inform her. Or if you are fasting, you don’t just keep it to yourself and then after she has prepared a sumptuous meal you decline to eat. That is improper," says the pastor.

And which is the best strategy to use to present this issue to your uncircumcised man without upsetting his ego or raising the issue of promiscuity?

Very defensive

Simon O, a learned man in a managerial corporate job, who is married and uncircumcised, says he would not take it kindly if his wife suggested to him to go for the cut.

"If she tells me it will spice our sex life, I would ask why she has tolerated bad sex for all the years we have been together and why she is raising the issue now. Or has she tasted better stuff elsewhere?" he poses.

But what if she coats the sexual ignition bit with the health benefits. Would he give an ear? Says he: "I do not like a wife who hears things outside, say WHO findings, and comes to experiment with me."

James A who got circumcised after his wife talked him into the idea, says he is an open-minded guy, but his wife’s tact also contributed hugely to his going for the procedure.

He narrates: "She cooked a nice meal for me before enticing me to bed with her sexy dressing. She then carefully introduced the topic and took me through the many health benefits."

He had the operation done at the Nyanza District Hospital.

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