The act of circumcising babies in Igbo land is an ancient culture and tradition of the Igbo people which has its origin from their traditional religions. “Circumcision is the act of removing female genitalia, or a simple fold of skin (foreskin and prepuce) that covers the head of an un-erect penis”. In ancient times, the Igbos circumcise both male and female children, but as modernization set in, the circumcision or genital mutilation of Igbo female children was stopped while that of male continued till today.
The circumcision of male babies (Ibi Ugwu) in Igbo land is done on the 8th day after birth. This is done by experts in the act, like midwives and native doctors (in modern day, physicians carry out this operation). During circumcision, the fore skin that covers the head of the penis is cut off and the operated part is treated to heal quickly and to prevent any form of infection. Male circumcision (Ibi Ugwu) takes five to seven day to heal up. Meanwhile, some Igbos circumcise their children three days after birth, while some Igbos dwelling outside the eastern region of Nigeria do ‘Ibi Ugwu‘ during adulthood but make sure it is done before marriage.
‘Ibi Ugwu’ or male circumcision is done among the Igbo people to prevent and cure the inability to retract the foreskin of the penis which occurs when the excess skin were not cut off. Medically, it has been discovered that male circumcision has a lot of health advantages which include: reduction of the risk of contacting Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) in man; prevention against penile cancer; reduction of the risk of having urinary tract infections; prevention or cure of the inability to retract the foreskin. Circumcision also has its negative sides which may come in form of excess bleeding, pain, injury, irritation, inflammation and so on.
In conclusion, it is considered a big shame for a man not to be circumcised in Igbo land. This clearly shows the extent at which ‘Ibi Ugwu’ and the Igbo culture in general is esteemed among the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria.
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