New NHS rules mean that all women with 'intimate piercings' will count as female genital mutilation victims.
All women who have vaginal piercings, even consenting adults, will be classed as victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) under new NHS rules.
The new Department of Health reporting regulations mean that any woman whose labia and clitoris has been pierced will be classified as a victim of FGM, even if they’ve decided to do so for fashion or for sexual reasons.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: ‘While there are challenges in this area and adult women may have genital piercings, in some communities girls are forced to have them.
‘The World Health Organisation has quite rightly defined this as a form of FGM.
‘The new data collection will help build a picture of the scale and the nature of the problem we are facing. We are continually working on ways to improve and develop the NHS response to this terrible practice.’
As a result of this, anyone who carries out piercings on female genitals is, in theory, breaking the law.
The move has also brought up the issue of cosmetic genital surgery and procedures like ‘designer vaginas.’ Currently, anyone cutting or damaging a woman’s genitals is breaking the law, unless there is a genuine medical or psychological reason.
The Commons Home Affairs Committee has warned that this lack of clarity around the law means that, again, in theory, practitioners in Harley Street and elsewhere could be breaking the law.
Though, the new rules sound extreme, the Department of Health is keen to stress that the emphasis is on collecting data, to get a better idea about how many FGM victims there are in the UK, rather than make prosecutions.
At the moment, it’s thought that about 170,000 women and girls are living with FGM in the UK.
More than 200 FGM-related cases were investigated by the police nationally in the past five years, but only one person has ever been prosecuted – and he was acquitted earlier this year.