Hymen repair surgery and virginity testing to come to an end in the UK

The UK government will soon be banning dangerous procedures meant to reconstruct a woman's hymen as a form of virginity testing.

Some women have been subjected to hymenoplasty across the UK, which is a form of honour-based abuse that seeks to control women's sexual autonomy.

Banning hymenoplasty

As a result, the UK is in the process of criminalising the act and the cosmetic procedure will soon be completely banned. Currently, the procedure is available in some clinics and cost up to £3,000. Hymenoplasty works by reconstructing a thin membrane that completely or partially covers the entrance of the vagina. This is often something done to prove that a woman is still a virgin in some cultures.

However, as is common knowledge today, an intact hymen is not sufficient proof that a woman is a virgin as it can naturally tear for a number of different reasons. The WHO has found the procedure to be practised in over 20 different countries around the world and considers it to be an intrusion on a woman's privacy and agency of her own body.

Diana Nammi, executive director at Iranian & Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, explained that the procedure can actually entail much more harm than anything else and on many different levels:

Every woman and girl who faces this invasive surgery, it is under duress–direct or indirect–to present as a 'virgin' and in many cases, it is carried out to enable a forced marriage, organised by her family.

And added:

Hymenoplasty causes trauma and in around half of cases, it fails to make the women or girl bleed the next time she has intercourse, leaving her highly vulnerable to 'honour' based abuse or even 'honour' killing.

Read also:

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Will the ban be counterproductive?

However, though fundamentally against the practice, Dr. Deeraj Bah, a cosmetic surgeon who runs a privative clinic in Harley Street London, believes criminalising the procedure might actually have the opposite effect. He explains:

When you ban something like a medical procedure you drive patients underground. They will start to go to back alley doctors, or fly in doctors who fly from other countries to perform these procedures.

And added:

I think the bigger issue here is if you don't know these procedures are being done you can't then monitor the complications and follow ups.
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