Leading medics have called for a ban on so-called revirginisation surgery.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said there is “no reason” hymenoplasty, or any other procedure under a different name that seeks to reconstruct or repair the hymen, needs to be conducted for medical purposes as it urged ministers to take action.
It said the Government should introduce a ban on virginity testing and hymenoplasty in the UK.
The RCOG said that the scale of the problem in Britain is not known because the practices are conducted in private clinics.
The college said the practices are “harmful” and can “create and exacerbate social, cultural and political beliefs that a woman’s value is based on whether or not she is a virgin before marriage”.
The RCOG said the Government has committed to legislating to ban virginity testing, but has not yet made this commitment on hymenoplasty.
President of the college Dr Edward Morris said: “We are very concerned that women are either being coerced into having these procedures or feel pressurised into having them so they can bleed during sex and can demonstrate they are a virgin on their wedding night.
“We want to see both virginity testing and hymenoplasty banned in the UK.
“This will send a clear message that there is no place in the medical world for these procedures and that women deserve the right to have ownership over their own sexual and reproductive health.
“We recognise that women seeking these procedures are often in very vulnerable and desperate situations.
“We would urge healthcare professionals who are approached about virginity testing or hymenoplasty to follow the appropriate safeguarding protocols, to ensure women are able to connect with organisations that can offer support.
“This should include referring women to police or social services if there is a perceived risk of violence or coercion.”
Diana Nammi, executive director at IKWRO – Women’s Rights Organisation, said: “Virginity testing and hymenoplasty are forms of violence against women and girls and there is no justification for either of these harmful practices, which cause immediate and long-term social and psychological trauma.
“Like the equally harmful practices of female genital mutilation and forced marriage, both must be banned with immediate effect.”