19 hymenoplasties carried out in hospitals in England this year
NHS hospitals have carried out illegal 'virginity repair' surgery, campaigners fear.
Officials last year banned the unnecessary operation, which crafts women a fake hymen so they can bleed the next time they have sex.
Yet 19 hymenoplasties – the medical name of the 'barbaric' procedure — were seemingly performed in 2022/23. One was done on a girl under 10.
Campaigners and experts have demanded an immediate investigation.
A hymenoplasty aims to create an artificial layer of scar tissue which bleeds when torn, mimicking the tearing of the hymen during sex. Before it was banned last July, private clinics charged up to £3,000 for the 30-minute op.
Muslim women and girls were one group that felt pressure to have the procedure, with relatives and spouses insisting they should be virgins on their wedding night.
But now, anyone found to have performed, or helped arrange, the procedure in the UK faces up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
NHS figures show 19 hymenoplasties were carried out in hospitals in England between April 2022 and March this year.
This leaves a three-month window where the procedure was technically legal.
For context, however, only 29 hymenoplasties were carried out in the entirety of 2021/22, the equivalent of around 2.5 per month.
Similar rates were seen before Covid, further implying that an unusually high number of ops were carried out shortly before the ban was enacted.
Data is only available by year, meaning a month-by-month breakdown is impossible.
These figures also only relate to NHS procedures, not private clinics.
Karma Nirvana, a charity supporting victims of honour-based abuse, said surgeons could have 'rushed through' the ops before the ban came into force so that they didn't break any law.
Had surgeons not rushed through the ops then either the numbers logged by NHS trusts are incorrect, or some were illegally carried out.
Data reveals the average age of girls treated was 26.
However, one hymenoplasty was performed on a girl between the age of five and nine.
Another four were recorded on girls aged between 10 and 14.
NHS England refused to reveal exactly when or where the 19 surgeries were carried out, citing rules around patient confidentially.
The service insisted that all procedures recorded would have been carried out for clinical reasons.
However, Government guidance explicitly states there is zero clinical justification to ever carry out the procedure.
An NHS England spokesperson said: 'There is no clinical reason a doctor would repair a hymen, which is why such a procedure is now illegal.
'And the cases recorded are likely a result of the data being inputted incorrectly – not because such procedures actually happened.'
Hymenoplasty, alongside a practise called virginity testing, was banned over fears of honour-based abuse present in some Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and Orthodox Jewish communities.
It is both illegal for hymenoplasty to be performed in Britain and to arrange for it to be performed on a Briton overseas.
While widely believed to only tear during penetrative sex, the hymen can actually be torn through other circumstances such as sporting activity or tampon insertion.
Because a hymenoplasty has no medical benefit, women subjected to the procedure can suffer post-surgical complications, like an infection, for no reason.
The surgery also carries the risk of creating scarring that makes sexual intercourse in the future painful.
Karma Nirvana warn women and girls pressured to have hymenoplasties and virginity testing can often fall victim to other forms of abuse, like forced marriage.
In 2002 Heshu Yones, just 16 at the time, was killed by her father at their family home in Acton, west London after allegedly failing a virginity test. Her murder was the first in the UK to be recognised by police as an honour killing.