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UK to ban Hymen repair and virginity testing surgery



The United Kingdom (UK) Government intends to ban hymen repair and virginity testing surgery throughout the country.

This is following widespread concern that some young women and girls are being coerced and forced to have their virginity tested, and subsequently undergoing hymen repair surgery.

UK to ban Hymen repair and virginity testing surgery

UK to ban Hymen repair and virginity testing surgery

The hymen is a thin membrane that partially covers the entrance to the vagina. During puberty, oestrogen causes the hymen to change in appearance and become very elastic. Normal variations of the post-pubertal hymen range from thin and stretchy to thick and somewhat rigid.

Hymenoplasty is a surgical intervention that involves reconstructing the hymen. There are a number of different techniques to achieve this but generally, it involves stitching the torn edges of the hymen together with dissolvable stitches. The procedure aims to ensure that the woman bleeds when she next has sexual intercourse.

A review by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Home Office concluded that there is no reason why a virginity test should be carried out. 

“It is not a medical procedure and is based on repressive and inaccurate views about female virginity and the hymen. It is a form of abuse and violence against women and girls that has detrimental physical and psychological impacts on women and girls,” they said.

The final report of the expert panel on hymenoplasty concluded that the prohibition of virginity testing would be undermined if hymenoplasty was not also banned.

The experts on the panel are the Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust Chair of the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology, Dr Pallavi Latthe MD; and the Professor of Healthcare Law, University College London Chair of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and co-chair of the Moral and Ethical Advisory Group, Prof. Sir Jonathan Montgomery.

“We recognise that this involves restricting the availability of services that some doctors are prepared to offer and that some women choose as a strategy to protect themselves. However, in many cases requests for hymenoplasty are the direct result of family coercion.

“Further, the belief that hymenoplasty would offer protection exists only where the context is a series of unacceptable attitudes and beliefs about virginity that put women at risk. These will persist unless we have the courage to tackle them.

“We believe that a ban on hymenoplasty is necessary at this time. It would protect the rights and freedoms of those who are vulnerable and help the government’s drive to promote a sound public morality in which women and girls are safe from violence.

“So long as the option of hymenoplasty is available, women will be placed under pressure to undergo the procedure. Only criminalisation will make it safe for them to refuse. We hope that the government will take steps to create an offence at the earliest opportunity,” they said.

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