While circumcision may have some health benefits, the evidence does not warrant a call for routine circumcision. Circumcision carries pros and cons. It has been shown to reduce babies' urinary tract infections, and may help prevent penile cancer, a rare disease. On the other hand, many parents feel it inflicts unnecessary pain and in many countries circumcision is rarely performed.
Castrated males were recorded in Assyria 3000 years ago; causes were punishment and to produce eunuchs. The Italian practice of castrating boys to make them soprano singers was nominally ended only in 1878 by a papal order. A trade in castrated boys to be used in Muslim harems is believed to still exist.
The foreskin (or prepuce) is a man's most sensitive erogenous zone, more well-developed in humans than in other species of mammal. It has unique sexual functions, which circumcision effectively destroys.
The custom of castration is practised among the native peoples of Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa and Australia. Skoptsy, a Russian religious sect, practice castration as a way of mortifying the flesh in order to gain salvation.
Circumcision is a common ritual practice in many traditional societies and often represents the achievement of a certain status. In North America and Israel the ablation of the foreskin is a regular procedure for all male newborns irrespective of any therapeutic indication; 400 babies are circumcised every hour in North America alone. Several Western countries have stopped routine neonatal circumcision and removed circumcision from the list of publicly-funded procedures for which health benefits are available. In 1993, one such country, the UK, the circumcision rate has dropped to one half of one percent.