A campaign to ban “virginity repair” surgery has gathered a lot of attention in the United Kingdom. Women’s rights campaigners have been urging the government to outlaw the procedure.
Virginity repair surgery, which is also called virginity restoration, has been common among Muslim women who are at risk of being outcast or even killed in extreme cases if their spouses or families find that they have had sex before marriage.
According to the BBC, there are fears among Muslim women if the procedure is banned.
“A patient’s consent to undergo a procedure should come into question if it is suspected of being given under pressure or duress exerted by another person,” according to the General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines.
Halaleh Taheri, who is a founder of Middle Eastern Women and Society Organization, told BBC News, many Muslim women are living in fear.
Currently, there are more than 20 private clinics in the UK offering virginity repair surgery, charging up to £3,000 (approximately $4,000) for the surgery, which takes about one hour.
Women’s rights campaigners said such clinics are profiting from Muslim women who are afraid of facing extreme consequences when they are not found “pure” during their wedding night.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said he would be investigating how to end this “dreadful practice.” However, the Department of Health did not comment on how a ban on virginity repair surgery would be enforced.
Taheri, however, said, “Girls could end up dying if banning this procedure isn’t done with proper care.”
The current chair of the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology, Dr. Naomi Crouch, is worried about girls and women who are being forced into the procedure with “zero medical benefits.”
“The duties of a doctor are made clear in standards set out by the GMC,” explained Dr. Crouch. “We as healthcare professions are bound by an oath to do no harm to patients and any reputable service engaging in these procedures is open to audit and scrutiny.”
It has been found that more and more women are opting for cosmetic surgery on their genitals.
GMC’s Medical Director and Director of Education and Standards, Colin Melville, said it is important that doctors consider the “vulnerabilities and psychological needs of their patients” first.
“If a patient is under undue pressure from others to take a particular course, their consent may not be voluntary,” added Melville. “If a doctor judges that a child or young person does not want a cosmetic intervention, it should not be performed.”
The women’s rights campaigners said there is no known medical benefit of the long-term effects of this procedure. In fact, they are concerned that women do not receive enough psychological support before undergoing surgery.
Taheri said, “These women on some level don’t see themselves as anything more than an object to be desired, rather a human being.”
“For Muslim women, the drive is feelings of shame and the fear of punishment,” she added. “For others, it is down to a lack of satisfaction with their own bodies, being fuelled by what society is telling them is normal.”