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Actor Russell Crowe

A few days ago, actor Russell Crowe criticised the ritual of circumcision on his Twitter account by branding it “barbaric and stupid”.

The topic of male circumcision– the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin (prepuce) from the penis- has remained a contentious debate for centuries.

People choose to circumcise their children for cultural and/or religious reasons and is one of the world’s oldest surgical practices.

The religious history of circumcision in Judaism can be found in the Hebrew bible whereby according to the book of Genesis, God told Abraham to circumcise himself, his household and his slaves as an everlasting covenant (agreement between God and His people) in their flesh [Genesis 17:10-14].

In Islam, circumcision is widely practiced and is considered to be sunnah- a practice taught by the Prophet Muhammad that fulfills religious rites and the molding of life according to the will of God.

Circumcision is also customary in most African and West Indian cultures.

During his rant, Crowe, who uses the twitter ID @russellcrowe asked:

“Who are you to correct nature? Is it real that GOD requires a donation of foreskin?” 

Personally, I have nothing against male circumcision as long as it’s carried out when a child is a baby. In fact, I find the thought of an uncircumcised penis a little cringe-worthy.

I remember one of my work colleagues telling me about when he was circumcised at the age of 8. Originally from the Philippines, he triggered his memory back to when he was on holiday there and being against the idea of having a little bit of his pee pee snipped off. His parents had made numerous failed attempts to persuade him to agree to have the procedure and eventually resorted to tricking him to go to the hospital. He described the pain as “excruciating” and told me he wished it had been done when he was a baby so he wouldn’t remember the intensity of the pain. He also talked of the embarrassment he faced having to go out in public only with a cloth wrapped around his lower body for a few days in order to help with the healing. As a common practice in that part of Asia, everyone in the street knew what had happened to him, however, despite going through all of this, he says he’s happy that he was circumcised.

Ancient Egyptian tomb painting of circumcision

One of my husband’s friends had a baby boy late last year. Out of curiosity, I asked the father if he would be getting his son circumcised and his response was “Of course”. ‘Nuff said, I thought and probed no further. Sure enough, within three months the little bubba was foreskin-less. I remember speaking to the mother about it afterward. She, understandably, seemed to have found it quite traumatic herself, let alone the baby. “I couldn’t stay in the room as it was done”, she admitted. “He cried so much. I just wanted to hold him. Luckily he healed within a few days”. She then jokingly remarked: “But now he has a pretty penis”. I couldn’t help but laugh at her latter comment.

The British Medical Journal has published numerous articles concerning the link between male circumcision  and HIV. Medical studies have shown that when carried out by a qualified practitioner and alongside other precautionary measures (such as using condoms etc) circumcision reduces the risk of contracting the HIV virus.

Other independent medical studies conclude that the procedure may decrease the risk of infections, penile irritation as well as cancer of the penis.

Self-studies by circumcised men indicate less sexual dysfunction and an easier ability to maintain penile hygiene, making it cleaner and far more attractive.

In response to a suggestion about circumcision from one of his Twitter followers, Crowe later facetiously wrote: “Hygienic? Why don’t you sew up your ass then?”

Those who are vehemently opposed to circumcision believe that it is a violation of human rights and regard it as a form of mutilation.

Some medics say that circumcised men have a reduced sexual sensation compared to those who haven’t had the procedure because the thousands of fine touch receptors and other highly erogenous nerve endings in the area that is cut off are lost. I think many circumcised men would beg to differ on this.

Other arguments against male circumcision include:

  • If you thoroughly wash daily no hygiene issues should arise;
  • If you’re born with it, it’s meant to be there;
  • Babies can die from the procedure (18 out of 100,000);
  • It’s a traumatic event for your baby that can affect breastfeeding, sleep, and even maternal bonding;
  • It’s outdated and on a steady decline.

After realising that his comments had not only caused offence to thousands of his followers but had also been reported by the media, Crowe issued an apology.

It’s safe to surmise that he hasn’t been circumcised and that has largely shaped his opinion on it but what’s your take on the whole matter? Do you agree with Russell’s comments? Do you prefer your partner to be circumcised or does it make no difference to you?

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Picture the following scenario if you may. A young lady going home (East London) on a dark winters evening- say around 7- from a long day at university. An African-Caribbean guy on his bike shouts “Oi, oi, oi, oi” as he rides past speedily almost startling this young lady. After mumbling a few words of discontent under her breath she gets over the near miss. To her dismay, the guy on his bike- now roughly 15 feet ahead-  looks back at her and does a u-turn. He approaches her on his bike, cycling around her. “You ‘aight baby?” He asks her with a slight patois in his voice. She ignores him. “Hello?, hello?”, he says still desperately trying to get her attention. “Can you leave me alone?”, she responds. “What?” he replies sounding upset at the dismissal. “You think you’re too pretty?”, he asks before gathering a mouthful of saliva and spitting on the left hand side of her face and in her eye. As she she reflexively swirls to her right in shock at what had just taken place- common assault- the offender rides off on his pedal bike faster than someone at the gym determined to lose a few pounds in one session.

Earlier today BBC London news reported the rise of sexual assault in London, with almost 100 reported cases of gang rape in the capital within the last year.

Two men who assaulted a girl aged 16 and doused her in caustic soda, disfiguring her for life, had their sentences increased on appeal.

In another case a 14-year-old girl was repeatedly raped ‘as punishment’ by nine members of a Hackney gang because she had ‘insulted’ their leader.

Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Jennette Arnold says that many young black men simply don’t have respect for females. That is certainly clear from all the above offences.

If you’re wondering who the young lady in the scenario was, it was me. The incident took place earlier this week only one minute away from my home. It left me more disillusioned with the behaviour of some young (black) men rather than shaken. Having been through 10 times more mental trauma in my young life, I suppose I found it fairly easy to deal with. That and the fact that my fiancé was there for me immediately after the incident. Even though he chased after the guy on the bike I’m glad he didn’t catch him because consumed with anger, his retaliation could have legally complicated the situation. The fact that I’m in a stable relationship allowed my general view of men not to be altered. After all, it’s unfair of me to tarnish all men with the same brush just because one imbecile showed utter disrespect to me.

Spitting is nasty, full stop but the sexual nature of his approach just made my skin crawl. To be honest, he belongs in the jungle if he considers that as being acceptable behaviour.  I mean, who honestly goes out of their way to do something like that?

I suppose by spitting on me, he thought I would feel degraded but I’m far too inwardly content with myself as an individual to let anyone make me feel worthless.

Without being patronising to myself, it could have been far worse. I could have been punched, slapped or kicked as well, or more seriously raped.

I don’t want to make it a race issue but unavoidably I was assaulted by a black male. I hate to say it but the stereotype prevailed. I could sit here all day debating, analysing and dissecting all possible explanations as to what may have driven him to behave in such a manner but I’d rather use my energy on something worthwhile that I can actually make a positively impact in mine or other people’s lives.

Of course, I reported the incident but only 10 minutes after it happened because felt that dialing 999 at the time would have been an futile attempt for the police to catch him, especially as my description of him was so vague. Unfortunately, the assault will probably just go down as another statistic of a reported but unsolved case. Although it may have been a one-off incident, I’ll definitely be investing in a personal noise alarm.

Useful links/numbers:

Police switchboard: 03001231212

Directgov page on rape and sexual assault

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swine-flu-vaccine Desiree Jennings, aged 25, had a promising life as a cheerleader ahead of her. That was, until she took the swine flu shot.

The H1N1 vaccine triggered a rare neurological disorder- called Dystonia- that causes twisting, abnormal postures, repetitive movements, slurred speech and more seriously seizures.

Desiree, who lives in America, was a healthy young lady, but 10 days after getting the shot, she not only contracted the flu but was admitted into hospital twice for seizures. She was later  diagnosed with Dystonia.

“It started with me not being able to eat without passing out”- Desiree Jennings

Now she has to go up and down stairs backwards because walking forwards (which most people take for granted) is dangerous for her. Although she can run normally and walk backwards upright without triggering muscle spasms, her life will never be the same again.

There’s been a lot of criticism over the swine flu vaccine, with many people refusing to take the jab.

Even some health care workers (in the NHS) opposed to new mandatory vaccinations have been warned that they may lose their job if they refuse to take the flu jab. I’m certainly sceptical about it. (Click on the link to watch David Icke explain why he thinks you shouldn’t take the swine flu vaccine)

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The swine flu virus under the microscope

The swine flu virus under the microscope

Since swine flu hit the headlines a couple of weeks ago, there have been 34 reported cases in the UK so far.
Last week the first case of human- to- human transfer of the H1N1 virus was confirmed in South Gloucestershire. The 43-year-old man was the first person to catch the virus without having visited Mexico.
The outbreak has seen 13 confirmed cases in children, resulting in a nursery and 5 schools closed in the capital. Fortunately there have been no deaths yet in the UK.
This morning I took to the streets to ask some Londoners what they make of swine flu and the media’s handling of the virus.

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Jade Goody who is suffering from cervical cancer

Jade Goody who is suffering from cervical cancer

I recently moved home and, as you do, I registered with my nearest GP. I was surprised that before I even had the chance to request a smear test, the receptionist told me that I had to have one done. I was unsure whether this procedure was down to the recently heightened profile of the disease. No doubt that reality TV star Jade Goody has raised the awareness of cervical cancer, and I suppose that’s what gave me the final push to book an appointment to have the check after putting it off for about four months.

Jade has been told by doctors that she doesn’t have much longer to live. A colleague at work passionately protested that he wouldn’t want to know if he was dying and only had a few months to live. “Why not?” I asked. I wouldn’t mind knowing. I mean, no one really wants to die but the way I see it is that if you’re not afraid of death then you’ll be spiritually and mentally prepared to handle the news.

After all, the only thing in this life that is guaranteed is death.

Jade Goody says that she wants to make enough money before she dies to ensure that her kids are well looked after. And quite frankly I commend her for taking such provisions to secure the future of her children. I think it’s disgusting that some online gambling websites are betting on when she’ll die.

I was saddened by the news of the death Wendy Richard (Pauline in Eastenders). She had breast cancer not once but three times, and unfortunately lost her battle with the disease today aged 65. A reminder for all women to regularly check for lumps.

The thought of cancer is a scary one, and I’m sure everyone knows at least one person that has been affected by it in some way or another. I suppose, what I’m trying to say is, don’t take your health for granted. Such experiences really put life into perspective.