‘It won’t end well’: Why women are reluctant to start the snip discussion
Many fear raising the subject of circumcision will lead to accusations of infidelity and physical abuse, study finds
“We need to talk about foreskin.”
It’s not necessarily the most welcome conversation-starter in an intimate relationship, but experts battling the spread of HIV say it’s a vital one.
And after questioning 30 Ekurhuleni women about the difficulties of broaching circumcision with suspicious and defensive partners, they say help is needed.
“Educating women on conversation techniques, types of approach and behaviour could assist them with communicating with their partner on voluntary medical male circumcision,” said researchers from The Aurum Institute, which works to eradicate HIV and TB.
Direct quotes from the women, included in a paper published in the journal PLOS One, show they tiptoe on eggshells when asking their partners to consider circumcision, which reduces the risk of HIV infection.
A 42-year-old woman told Candice Chetty-Makkan and her colleagues: “You must target the days he is so happy. Talk about it after food, maybe when you are in the bedroom. Say it nicely.”
A 32-year-old said: “If you ask him about circumcision, he will ask you which circumcised man have you engaged in sexual intercourse with.”
“[He] will just beat you up the moment you start talking about it,” a 31-year-old said. “Some Zulu men tell us that we don’t do that ... that it is none of your business ... you are not a man [so] you know nothing about circumcision.”
Chetty-Makkan said women faced “substantial barriers” in initiating discussions about the snip.
“Most women felt that they should encourage their partners, show more interest in circumcision, be patient, speak in a caring and respectful tone, choose a correct time when their partner was relaxed and talk in a private space,” she said.
“Our study showed that women felt at risk of being accused of infidelity and subject to physical abuse if they raised or introduced the topic of circumcision with their male partners.
“Hesitation to speak to mature partners about circumcision was another challenge, as circumcision is generally associated with younger boys.”
Chetty-Makkan said education on conversation techniques could be helpful to women wanting to discuss circumcision with their partners.