Labia surgery should be allowed, doctors and politicians say

Laws that were intended to prevent genital mutilation are also barring women from undergoing elective cosmetic surgery

Political leaders, doctors and parliament’s ethics council are in agreement that women – and not the government – should decide over their labia.

Laws were put in place in 2003 to outlaw female circumcision in order to prevent the type of genital mutilation that is often carried out on young girls from Somalia. Since then, the Justice Ministry has adjusted the law to make it illegal to perform any cosmetic surgery on the outer female genitalia. The maximum penalty for a doctor performing the surgery is six years in prison.

Jacob Birkler, the head of ethics council Det Etisk Råd, called the law "patronising".

"It is similar to telling someone that they cannot correct prominent ears," Birkler told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Flemming Møller Mortensen, a health spokesperson for Socialdemokraterne, said women should be able to pay for cosmetic surgery if they so desire.

"Adults should be allowed to decide for themselves,” he told Jyllands-Posten.

Liberal Alliance health spokesperson Joachim Olsen said that the law is a good example of legislators having the best of intentions but not understanding the possible negative effects of a law.

It has become popular to shorten the labia, creating what is called a 'designer vagina', and women who would pay for the operation themselves if it were legal are resorting to lying to doctors and claiming physical discomfort when riding a bike or during sex. That way the operations are not considered cosmetic and can be received legally and paid for by the state.

Doctors performed 693 labia-reduction surgeries in Denmark last year. Other women had the operation performed abroad.

Plastic surgeon Jesper Nygart told Jyllands-Posten that he would perform the surgery if it were legal.

"It's quite easy to distinguish between circumcision and a cosmetic operation," he said. "The surgery can improve some women's self-confidence and sex life and the risk for complications is very low – maybe even lower than the risk of breast enhancement surgery."

Radikale's health spokesperson, Camilla Hersom, said that a fashion trend is no reason to change the law.

"The cosmetic restriction happened by chance, but I do not think you should put yourself under the knife if you are not sick,” Hersom told Jyllands-Posten. “I would be upset if my daughters wanted such an operation simply because it is fashionable.”

  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.