Hundreds of women in London with vagina piercings will be recorded as victims of potentially illegal female genital mutilation under new NHS rules to be introduced next month.
The mandatory reporting regulations, sent to medical staff by the Department of Health, say that any woman whose labia or clitoris has been pierced must be classed as suffering FGM.
The rules will apply even when women have consented to the piercing and had the procedure in the belief that it will improve their sex lives and enhance their attractiveness.
It means that each of the women will also be classed as a potential crime victim and that those responsible for carrying out the piercing could be deemed guilty of an offence under legislation banning FGM.
The new edict forms part of an expansion of NHS rules on recording FGM and will fuel the debate about how cosmetic genital surgery and other procedures to create “designer vaginas” should be treated by police and prosecutors.
Under existing legislation, any action to cut or otherwise damage a female’s genitals is illegal unless there is a genuine medical or psychological reason to justify the procedure.
The Commons Home Affairs Committee has warned, however, that a lack of clarity in the law means that potentially unlawful surgery is being carried out in Harley Street and elsewhere as women undergo procedures such as labia reduction for cosmetic reasons.
The new NHS regulations make clear that piercings are also a form of mutilation and should be recorded as part on an “enhanced FGM dataset” that is designed to establish the number of victims in this country.
A Department of Health spokesman confirmed the move and said that piercings were a form of FGM even when performed on consenting adult women.
He added: “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. We are taking every precaution to record genital piercings that have been done within an abusive context.”