Elective Vagina Surgery on the Rise

September 25, 2008 12:19 PM
by Anne Szustek
The U.K.’s National Health Service has reported a doubling in the performance of a type of vaginal cosmetic surgery. Women’s reasons include appearance and cultural mores.

More Women Sign Up for Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery

Professor Linda Cardozo of King’s College Hospital in London voiced concern at a Montreal medical conference about the rise in cases of plastic surgery on the vagina and the apparent lack of medical advice on the topic.

“Women want to emulate the supermodel. It’s part of a trend. But they should know that all surgery can be risky,” Cardozo was quoted as saying by the BBC. “Most of the procedures are done in the private sector and it’s totally unregulated.” According to Cardozo, the most “established” of such surgeries is labioplasty, which reduces the size of the labia. While often done to alleviate discomfort, appearance has been given as another reason why women elect for the surgery. Other popular surgeries include “vaginal rejuvenation” to tighten the vagina, and hymenoplasty, also known as “hymen replacement.”

The BBC cites statistics showing a 100 percent increase in the number of labioplasty procedures performed by the NHS from 2000 to 2004-5. At the start of the decade, the U.K. state health service did 400 labial reductions, compared to 800 at the end of that five-year period.

Some women “do this as a Valentine’s present to their husbands,” Dr. Marc Abecassis, who performs two to four hymen replacement operations a week.

Dr. Andrew Mackintosh, who as of 2004 was performing “vaginal rejuvenation” surgeries out of his clinic in Auckland, New Zealand, said that “some women had it done … as an add-on to more functional operations.”

Other women have put their genitalia under the knife to please their partners—but in a different way.

France’s young female Muslims, usually first- or second-generation descendants of immigrants, enjoy the greater freedoms permitted in modern European society. But when engaged to men of similar backgrounds, it is the mores of their heritage that take precedence.

Fearing harm from their families or in-laws, more women are signing on for hymen replacement surgery in order to produce the telltale virginal blood on their wedding nights.

A 23-year-old French woman of Moroccan descent told The New York Times as she was getting prepped for the procedure, “In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt.”

Namus,” often translated into English as “honor,” is an Islamic concept of family righteousness that hinges upon a woman’s propriety. First and foremost, women are to protect their own namus and in turn the esteem of the entire family. Any behavior deemed sexually “immoral”—from premarital sex to merely dressing provocatively--tarnishes the namus of a woman’s family.

Similar beliefs are endemic to other parts of the world and by adherents of other religions.

Background: Namus, secular hymen restoration

Opinion & Analysis: A critical look at namus

Reference: Web Guide to plastic surgery

Related Topic: ‘Female Circumcision Comes to America’


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