Cosmetic Genital Piercings
Women can seek to obtain cosmetic genital piercings for various reasons. The mandatory reporting practices introduced in England and Wales mean that health services will seek to record cosmetic genital piercings as a form of FGM, to identify where this has been done in an abusive context. Cosmetic genital piercings are not prohibited under FGM legislation, but neither is it explicitly exempted from requirements to record and report.
Question 14. Do you have views in relation to the place of cosmetic genital piercings in relation to protections and guidance?
If yes, please outline these arguments.
Many respondents emphasised that cosmetic genital piercings were a matter of consent and emphasised personal choice, and several emphasised the importance of not blurring this issue with FGM. There was limited suggestion that the government should intervene in relation to consenting adults seeking this form of cosmetic surgery.
Insofar as there was concern about potential problems with cosmetic genital piercings, these related to potential concern that participants in these procedures might be subject to coercion or under the age of consent (generally perceived to be 16). When concerns were raised, these were primarily related to distinguishing between coercion and choice. For example, one respondent suggested that cosmetic genital piercing should be considered as FGM when it occurred at the behest of an adult third party in relation to a child or young person under the age of consent, and should be recognised as domestic abuse in the statutory guidance when an adult women is being forced. Another respondent considered cosmetic genital piercing FGM if the women is under the age of 16 when the procedure was undertaken.
Several respondents suggested that healthcare practitioners and those involved in administering the procedure should be supported in asking questions to confirm whether or not the piercing was coerced and the age at which it took place, in case further action was required. Another suggested that all cosmetic genital piercings should be recorded, but acknowledged that this might move the practice ‘underground’. Another suggested that the age of consent for cosmetic genital piercings should be 18. Reference was made by a few respondents to the WHO guidance on FGM, which lists ‘piercing’ as Type IV FGM.
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