Piercing of the genitals with metallic rings and other jewelry by non-medical personnel is becoming a growing phenomenon among young men and women and is causing an increasing number of complications.
Gynecologists at the Rabin Medical Center-Hasharon Campus in Petah Tikva in the latest issue of Harefuah, the Hebrew-language journal of the Israel Medical Association, called on the Health Ministry to initiate legislation to protect the public.
No comment was available from the ministry at press time.
Dr. David Rabinerson and Dr. Eran Horowitz write that piercing of genitals is an invasive procedure, but it is carried out by unlicensed people who pierce other parts of the body. Among the possible complications are infection with hepatitis B or C and HIV via unsterilized equipment; speedier infection of sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, during sex because of an open wound on the genitals; acute streptococcal infections that can spread to the pelvis and abdomen; and damage to the sex organs of the bearer or his/her partner.
Among the more bizarre reported complications have been choking after swallowing the ring and broken teeth during oral sex with a person who has genital piercing. In addition, some people are allergic to the metal and develop atopic dermatitis.
The practitioners of piercing, who are not supervised, may not ask customers if they are allergic to local anesthetic or the metals themselves or whether they have clotting problems. Gynecologists and urologists have increasingly noted genital piercing on their patients, especially the younger ones.
Piercing of body parts has been well known for millennia, the authors write, quoting the mention of gold nose rings given by Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, to Rebecca before she married Isaac. It was considered decoration, fashion or a way of defining identity.
Genital piercing, claimed by some but never proven scientificallyâ€° to enhance sexual pleasure, was mentioned in the Indian sexual guide, the Kama Sutra, but it was not common until the 1990s. Then, apparently due to widespread visits by Western young people to India, the practice of piercing intimate parts of the body, including nipples and genitals, became more common.
The authors note that Israelis have not been deterred from the practice because the amount of metal "does not set off metal detector alarms... the most relevant point for living in Israel."
As for legislation, a private member's bill initiated by MK Gila Finkelstein last year would regulate piercing of organs beyond earlobes and require written parental permission under the age of 16, but it has not been made law.
The World Health Organization has passed a convention that regards piercing of the female sex organs as a violation of international law, thus anyone who violates it in theory could be tried, the authors note.