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Doctors Could Be Charged Under FGM Laws For Genital Cosmetic Surgery

The subject of FGM has been in the news quite a lot in recent months. Despite the practice being illegal in the UK since 1985, one group estimates that there are around 66,000 victims of FGM living in the UK. While the practice might be widespread, and an estimated 22,000 women and girls are at risk, there hasn’t been a single conviction.

November 24, 2016

This could all be about to change as MPs discuss outlawing genital cosmetic surgery, using FGM laws as the basis. The courts are now deciding whether to prosecute two cosmetic surgeons who carried out genital cosmetic surgery in London and Cheshire. In 2015, former Home Secretary Theresa May warned that doctors would have to find a physical or mental health justification for carrying out the procedure over fears of a double standard. A report from the home affairs select committee argued: “We cannot tell communities in Sierra Leone and Somalia to stop a practice which is freely permitted in Harley Street.”

Some forms of cosmetic surgery, such as labiaplasty, are subject to mandatory reporting, which means that doctors are legally required to report instances under FGM laws. It is then up to the courts to decide whether or not to prosecute. Police have now opened investigations into three cases, two in London and one in Cheshire. All of the women reportedly paid for the surgeries privately and were all over the age of 18 at the time of the procedure. Prosecutors must now decide if bringing charges is in the public interest.

As most genital cosmetic surgery procedures are carried out privately, it is unclear how many people have undergone the treatment in the UK. A recent report from Australia found that girls as young as 15 were asking their GPs about labiaplasty surgery, which has sparked concern from leading cosmetic surgeons. While some women experience medical issues that require the surgery, the report found that over 1,500 procedures were performed in Australia in 2013, which shows a 300% increase over the past decade. Of those GPs surveyed in the report, more than half reported psychological disturbances in their patients, such as body dysmorphia or anxiety.

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