Female genital mutilation (FGM), hymenoplasty and virginity testing

The law and FGM

FGM is illegal in the UK.

It's an offence to:

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (as amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015) stipulates the mandatory reporting of FGM. The legislation requires regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to make a report to the Police where, in the course of their professional duties, they either:

Female genital mutilation (sometimes referred to as female circumcision or cutting) refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It has no medical benefits and causes severe pain and has several immediate and long-term health consequences.

In all cases: If you are worried about a child under 18 who is at risk of FGM or has had FGM, you have a legal obligation to share this information with social care and/or the police. Professionals must also consider the risks to other girls and women who may be related to or living with an individual with FGM as it is an inter-generational practice, their girls and young women may also be at significant risk of harm.

FGM Helpline:

0800 028 3550

Hymenoplasty and virginity testing

The government has made it illegal to carry out, offer or aid and abet virginity testing or hymenoplasty in any part of the UK, as part of the Health and Care Act 2022.

It is also illegal for UK nationals and residents to do these things outside the UK.

Virginity testing and hymenoplasty are forms of violence against women and girls and are part of the cycle of honour based abuse. Women and girls are coerced, forced and shamed into undergoing these procedures, often pressurised by family members or their intended husbands’ family in the name of supposedly upholding honour and to fulfil the requirement that a woman remains ‘pure’ before marriage. Some practitioners issue a certificate to prove ‘virginity’ after a virginity test or hymenoplasty, while some will simply tell the family or community members whether a woman or girl has ‘passed’ a virginity test.

Both virginity testing and hymenoplasty can be precursors to child or forced marriage and other forms of family and/or community coercive behaviours, including physical and emotional control. Women who ‘fail’ a virginity test, are found to have undergone a hymen reconstruction, or do not bleed on their wedding night are likely to experience further honour based abuse including emotional and physical abuse, family or community disownment and even honour killings.

Virginity testing

For the purposes of the Health and Care Act 2022, virginity testing is any examination (with or without contact) of the female genitalia intended to establish if vaginal intercourse has taken place. This is irrespective of whether consent has been given.

The position of the World Health Organization and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is that virginity tests have no scientific merit or clinical indication as there is no known examination that can prove whether a woman has had vaginal intercourse.


Hymenoplasty is a procedure undertaken to reconstruct a hymen. There are a number of different techniques to achieve but it generally involves stitching hymenal remnants together at the vaginal opening, or surgically reconstructing a hymen using vaginal tissue. The aim of the procedure is to ensure that a woman bleeds the next time she has intercourse to give the impression that she has no history of vaginal intercourse. There is no guarantee that this will fully reform the hymen or cause bleeding when penetration is attempted.

Hymenoplasty is not the same as other procedures that could be performed on the hymen for clinical reasons (for example, surgery to remove remnant fingers of the hymen that cause discomfort, or to treat an imperforate hymen to allow menstrual blood to escape).

The Virginity testing and hymenoplasty multiagency guidance has more information for agencies and anyone else who may come in to contact with women and girls affected by virginity testing and hymenoplasty. It encourages agencies to cooperate and work together to protect and support those at risk of, or who have undergone, these procedures.