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 MailOnline can today reveal that 19 hymenoplasties – the medical name of the ‘barbaric’ procedure — were seemingly performed in 2022/23. One was done on a girl under 10.
Armed with our ‘hugely worrying’ revelation, outraged campaigners and experts have demanded an immediate investigation.
This chart shows the number of ‘virginity repairs’ recorded in the NHS per year. Charities are alarmed about the number of procedures recorded in 2022/23, the year the procedure was banned, as being suspiciously high for the small window it remained legal. Source: NHS
A MailOnline investigation suggests NHS medics may have illegally carried out ‘virginity repair’ surgery on over a dozen women and girls in England
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 examined by this website found 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.
Ministers formally announced the ban in January 2022, six months before it was enacted.
Natasha Rattu, executive director of Karma Nirvana, told MailOnline: ‘This is a safe-guarding red flag.
‘It was clear what the intention of the law was, the Government were clear on that.
‘If there were procedures that were carried out just before the law was brought in, that’s really worrying. Those children and those individual adults should have been safeguarded.’
Had surgeons not rushed through the ops then either the numbers logged by NHS trusts are incorrect, or some were illegally carried out.
Ms Rattu, a law graduate, added: ‘There needs to be Parliamentary intervention to review this.
‘I don’t know how independent the NHS can be to scrutinize its own practice, I feel there needs to be some independent scrutiny of how this happened.’
Her calls for an immediate probe were echoed by Dr Ranee Thakar, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
She added: ‘The NHS should investigate all cases of hymenoplasties recorded after this procedure was made illegal.
‘It may be that some legitimate medical procedures are being incorrectly coded as hymenoplasty on NHS data systems. However, it is crucial there is a clear picture of what is happening, as part of safeguarding women from these harmful procedures.’
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.
Ms Rattu said: ‘It is hugely concerning that the NHS has allowed that to happen to a child.
Heshu Yones (left) was 16 when she had her throat slit by her strict Kurdish Muslim father, Abdalla Yones (right), at their family home in Acton, west London, in October 2002
‘We have duties in place to protect and safeguard children, it’s entirely unacceptable it’s been allowed to happen.
‘[The NHS] is endorsing the idea that it’s okay to have hymenoplasty.’
NHS England refused to reveal exactly when or where the 19 surgeries were carried out, citing rules around patient confidentially.
And when originally alerted to our findings, 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.
In the wake of our revelation, NHS chiefs are now seeking further information from the trusts involved.
But a spokesperson said that the cases were probably due to reporting errors from NHS staff.
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 in the NHS is recorded under a specific procedure code, which was scrapped in April due to the op being finally banned.
But Ms Rattu called for the code to remain in place to track any continued cases in the future and to avoid such operations being hidden in another category.
As well as the ops potentially being misreported, individual procedures can potentially be recorded more than once, meaning the numbers could be inflated.
The data could also include some procedures related to follow-up care for previously carried out hymenoplasties but, under Government guidance, they shouldn’t be recorded using the specific code in NHS records.
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.
Hymenoplasty and virginity testing have no medical or scientific basis, as virginity is a cultural construct not a biological one.
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.