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KENYA: "What would happen if my penis refused to heal?" Why men refuse circumcision

Photo: Mercedes Sayagues/IRIN
Kenya aims to circumcise 1.1 million men by 2013
KISUMU, 15 June 2010 (PlusNews) - The government of Kenya is running an ambitious programme that aims to have 80 percent of all uncircumcised men - an estimated 1.1 million - circumcised by 2013. Most uncircumcised men live in the western province of Nyanza, where so far more than 100,000 have had the procedure, and the drive is seen as hugely successful.

IRIN/PlusNews visited Nyanza's capital city, Kisumu, and spoke to several men about why they refused to be circumcised.

Pain: Boniface Oyoo, 25, who drives a 'boda-boda', or motorcycle taxi, in Kisumu, said he had heard about voluntary medical male circumcision and its benefits, and even knew where he could go to get the services, but he was afraid of the discomfort and possible complications.

"I have talked to my friends who have gone for it. They tell me when you are being cut it is not painful, but after you go home there is some pain; that is what I fear," Oyoo said. "Then, at times I think, 'What would happen if my penis refused to heal?'"

Loss of income: Toby Onyango, 22, a spray painter at a vehicle repair workshop in Kisumu, said he was afraid of losing pay if he took time off to be circumcised and then to heal.

"I want to go for it ... [but] I am paid on a daily basis - I have to eat and feed my family," he said. "If I could get an alternative source of income during this time I would just go."

What will my wife think?: Jairus*, 41, a family man, knew the procedure would reduce his chances of contracting HIV, but said his wife would be suspicious.

"My wife believes I am faithful - if I go for the cut, she will just think I have been dogging [cheating] on her," he said. "I don't want to create that mistrust."

''When you are cut you have to heal, and by the time you heal, your girlfriend is gone''
Culture: Unlike most ethnic communities in Kenya, the Luo, largest ethnic group in Nyanza, do not traditionally circumcise men and many were unwilling to go against the cultural norm.

"We Luos do not circumcise ... it is like betraying my culture, and even my friends we grew up with will look at me badly," said John Ngesa, 37.

Loss of Sex: Romano, 21, found the six-week healing period, when men are advised to abstain from sex, too long to handle.

"That is the time your girlfriend can leave you for another man," he said. "When you are cut, you have to heal, and by the time you heal, your girlfriend is gone."

The HIV test: HIV counseling is part of the male circumcision process and an HIV test is recommended; for some men, fear of knowing their status was the main disincentive.

"I have never gone for an HIV test and I just fear it ... there are certain things that we do which makes us fear that test," said Jaoko*. "So, if I have to be tested for HIV to be circumcised, then I can't go for it," he said.

I am married, how could I get HIV?: Older married have been were particularly reluctant to be circumcised, partly because they see themselves at low risk of contracting HIV, even though it has been spreading fastest among married and cohabiting couples.

"I am married, so where do I get HIV, yet I am a faithful man? I trust my wife," Dan Musa, 43, told IRIN/PlusNews. "When you are faithful you are safe."


Theme (s): Economy, Education, Gender Issues, Health & Nutrition, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Prevention - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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