Theresa May has said that doctors who carry out 'designer vagina' cosmetic surgery could be committing a criminal offence, unless there is a physical or mental health justification.
In a report to Parliament, the Home Secretary warned that prosecutions could take place – whether the woman had given her consent to the surgery or not – and that courts could be asked to rule whether "purely cosmetic surgery" falls into the same category of crime as female genital mutilation (FGM).
'Designer vagina' operations, which can involve procedures to tighten the vagina, increase the size of the 'g-spot' and reduce the size of the labia, have become increasingly common in the last 10 years.
In July this year, it was revealed that those aged 18-24 are most likely to enquire about labiaplasty, with around 1,150 women in this age group making requests for surgery.
Transform Cosmetic Surgery, who released the data, also showed that labia reduction enquiries are more common in west and central London than any other London area. Since 2001, the number of labiaplasties performed by the NHS has risen five-fold, with more than 2000 operations performed in 2010.
Theresa May’s comments responded to a home affairs select committee report on FGM, in which the MPs called on the Government to consider a ban on cosmetic genital surgery on girls aged under 18.
They are in response to what doctors have branded "unrealistic representations of vulval appearance in popular culture".
A report by the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology on labia reduction said there was "no scientific evidence" to support the practice and added that health risks, particularly to girls under 18, include bleeding, infection and a loss of sensitivity.
Most cosmetic genital operations are done privately in clinics that are not required to collate statistics, making it almost impossible to know how many take place.
Ms May said she had "no plans" to create a new offence involving cosmetic genital surgery because such operations could already be prosecuted under 2003 legislation that strengthened the ban on FGM.