Women who have genital piercings will be recorded as having suffered female genital mutilation (FGM) under new NHS rules due to come into force next month.
The Department of Health said it is "taking every precaution to record genital piercings that have been done within an abusive context" and the reporting regulations are in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Evening Standard reports that the new mandatory recording regulations will even apply to consenting women who had the procedure for cosmetic reasons or because they believed it would enhance their sex lives.
FGM is a non-medical procedure that intentionally alters the appearance of, or causes injury to, female genital organs. Piercing and incising were classified as “harmful procedures” and forms of FGM by the WHO in guidelines published last year.
Some 170,000 women and girls are estimated to be living with FGM in the UK. At least 2,600 women and girls who suffered FGM have been treated by the NHS since last September. Nearly 500 women and girls with FGM were seen in NHS trusts in England in January alone.
Over 130 million women and girls have suffered FGM worldwide.
The Government has previously said the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 does not contain any exemptions for cosmetic surgery and it has no plans to amend the legislation specifically to prohibit female genital cosmetic surgery.
A DoH 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.
"We are taking every precaution to record genital piercings that have been done within an abusive context.
"The new data collection will help build a picture of the scale and the nature of the problem we are facing. We are continually working on ways to improve and develop the NHS response to this terrible practice."
Additional reporting by PA
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies