Private UK clinics cash in on ‘virginity repair’ ops for brides-to-be
World / 13 January 2020, 11:13am / BEN SPENCER MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT
London - Surgeons are performing ‘virginity repair’ operations on young women to give the impression that they are ‘pure’ on their wedding nights.
At least 22 private clinics in Britain are offering the ‘revirginisation’ procedures for prices of up to £3,000.
They claim the surgery can ‘restore your innocence’ and are ‘100 per cent safe’.
The majority of women undergoing the operations are thought to be young Muslim women from Middle Eastern and Asian families under pressure to be ‘untouched’ when they marry.
Many are thought to have travelled to the United Kingdom specifically to have the operation.
The procedure, called hymenoplasty, involves constructing a layer of skin at the entrance to the vagina that often tears when the woman first has sex. The aim is to create the illusion of an unbroken hymen, traditionally considered to be a mark of virginity.
Guidance from the General Medical Council states that practitioners must obtain a patient’s informed consent before beginning the procedure.
It says this ‘may not be valid if it is given under pressure or duress exerted by another person’. Halaleh Taheri, founder of the Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation, based in north London, said she had dealt with several cases of young women who grew up in Britain and felt they had a ‘right to have sex’ but were then forced into marriage.
‘They don’t know what to do,’ she said. She had also been contacted by mothers asking where they can have the procedure.
‘They are often very scared the father will find out,’ she told the Sunday Times.
Dr Leila Frodsham, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said hymen repair perpetuated ‘harmful myths’ about virginity. ‘I think people would be surprised to know this is going on,’ she said.
‘There are a lot of people making a lot of money out of very vulnerable women. It is very difficult to think that it’s justified to operate on somebody as part of a religious practice. There is no benefit other than demonstrating that you’re a virgin on your wedding night.’
Hymen repair operations are done privately in clinics that are not required to provide statistics, so it is impossible to know how many take place. Charities believe hundreds of patients have the procedure in the UK every year.
Clinics claim to have seen soaring demand, with one reporting a four-fold increase in inquiries in the past five years.
In one case, a 26-year-old Moroccan woman studying in Britain sought the surgery in London after receiving death threats from her father, who discovered she had a secret boyfriend.
When she returned home she was subjected to a degrading ‘virginity test’ to check her hymen.
Last February police officers in south-east England became involved in the case of a 17-year-old foreign national who requested the procedure from her GP, telling them that she ‘needs to bleed if she gets married’.
Aneeta Prem, founder of the charity Freedom, said: ‘It’s a dreadful practice, but I understand why women feel under so much pressure to have it done.
‘Sometimes the consequences are too grave not to.’
The British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons said it did not condone irresponsible advertising, and urged patients to consider the potential risks of surgery.