March 18, 2015
Vagina piercings count as FGM, even if you're a consenting adultby Amelia Butterly
All women who have a pierced vagina will be classified as having suffered female genital mutilation (FGM), the Department of Health says.
Even if an adult consents to having it done, she will still be said to have undergone a "harmful procedure".
The Department of Health says it'll take "every precaution" to record "abusive" genital piercings.
But the Tattoo and Piercing Industry Union (TPIU) has told Newsbeat body piercing is "in no way related" to FGM.
"It undermines the serious nature of FGM to in any way compare it to a consensual body piercing. FGM is often carried out on minors by force and clearly without consent," says spokesman Marcus Henderson.
More than 200 FGM-related cases were investigated by the police nationally in the past five years.
The government advises you to contact the NSPCC if you or someone you know is worried about FGM - and if there is immediate risk you should tell the police.
"Most responsible piercers won't do any intimate piercings on anyone under the age of 18," says Mr Henderson.
"Now we're faced with a situation where men are able to make up their mind and consent to an intimate piercing where women are not."
One London-based professional piercer, who wanted to remain anonymous, says his customers do not consider genital piercings to be at all similar to FGM.
"It's nothing to do with mutilation," he says. "I think [piercing] is more to do with adornment of the body or the discovery of new sensations."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "While there are challenges in this area and adult women may have genital piercings, in some communities girls are forced to have them.
"The World Health Organisation has quite rightly defined this as a form of FGM.
The government has said it has no plans to amend the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 to specifically include cosmetic surgery on the genitals.
In its report the Home Affairs Select Committee of MPs said the Act should be changed to make it clear these procedures would be a criminal offence if done on girls under 18, unless for mental or physical health reasons.
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