women mental healthThe Department of Health has announced new mandatory reporting regulations under which all women with vaginal piercings are to be classed as victims of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Under new NHS rules to be introduced next month, any woman whose labia or clitoris has been pierced must be recorded as suffering FGM - a procedure which is illegal in the UK.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN FGM PRACTICE AT THE PREVENTING FGM CONFERENCE (13 MAY)

The mandatory reporting regulations were sent to medical staff by the Department of Health, which said it is would start classifying the piercings 'within an abusive context'. Even women who have consented to the piercing for cosmetic reasons will be deemed as a potential victim of crime.

The new rules are in line with guidance from the World Health Organisation, which last year classified piercing as 'harmful procedures' that are considered under the bracket of FGM.

Those responsible for carrying out the piercing could also be implicated for committing a criminal offence, as clarified in new guidelines from the College of Policing released this week.

There is already much debate about whether genital surgery procedures such as so-called 'designer vagina' operations should be treated by as FGM. Last week, MPs released a report which said police, midwives and campaigners remain confused over whether the operations fall within FGM laws.

Under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, it is illegal to cut girls' genitals unless there is a genuine justification. The exemptions in the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 refer to operations carried out on the grounds of physical or mental health and do not cover cosmetic surgery.

The Home Affairs Select Committee said the act should be amended to reiterate that female genital cosmetic surgery on those who do not have a physical or mental health justification is potentially illegal. The Government has previously said it has no plans to make these changes.

A Department of Health spokesperson 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."