Culture of Ibi Ugwu (circumcision) in Igbo land


Ibi Ugwu (male circumcision) is the removal of the foreskin covering the head of a penis. It is an ancient Igbo tradition and practice that has its origin in our traditional religious rites. Most Igbo parents have their sons circumcised for cultural reasons.

In times past, we circumcised both male and female children. But these days, we, Igbos, have stopped female circumcision and genital mutilation of women in virtually all our communities.

For some male newborns, ibi ugwu is done on the 3rd day after birth. While, for others, male ibi ugwu is performed on the 8th day after birth, which incidentally is same as two weeks in Igbo calendar. But, in some Igbo settlements outside the shores of Nigeria, male circumcision is postponed until adulthood as a sign that one is now a man ripe for marriage and the responsibilities of life.

However, we are mainly known (among comity of ethnic tribes and nationalities in Nigeria) for circumcising our sons on the 8th day after

During circumcision in Igbo land, the foreskin of a male penis is freed from the head, and the excess foreskin is clipped off. If done in the newborn period, the procedure takes about five to 10 minutes. Adult ibi ugwu takes about one hour. Ibi ugwu generally heals in five to seven days.

Our forefathers recommended ibi ugwu to prevent and treat the inability to retract the foreskin of the penis or to treat an infection of the penis in older boys and men.

There is evidence that ibi ugwu has some health benefits which include:

  • A decreased risk of urinary tract infections.
  • A reduced risk of some sexually transmitted diseases in men.
  • Protection against penile cancer and a reduced risk of cervical cancer in female sex partners.
  • Prevention of inflammation of the head of the penis and the foreskin
  • Prevention of the inability to retract the foreskin and to return the foreskin to its original location.

Ibi ugwu also makes it easier to keep the end of the penis clean.

Like most Igbo cultural procedures, there are risks associated with circumcision. However, this risk is low. Problems associated with ibi ugwu include:

  • Pain
  • Risk of bleeding and infection at the site of the circumcision
  • Irritation of the head of the penis
  • Increased risk of inflammation of the opening of the penis
  • Risk of injury to the penis

By and large, It is shameful for a male to be uncircumcised in Igbo land.


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