HUNDREDS of Australian women are mutilating their genitals each year by having cosmetic surgery driven by pornography, gynaecologists say.
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists vice-president Ajay Rane said labiaplasties and vulvoplasties to reduce the size of a women's genitals were ''the modern version of FGM (female genital mutilation)''.
Melbourne gynaecologist Sonia Grover said female genital mutilation, a practice in which girls' genitals are cut and sometimes stitched together to narrow the vaginal opening, was rare in Australia.
Laws in every Australian state and territory make it an offence to perform such mutilation for cultural reasons. Associate Professor Grover said there was little evidence of the practice in Australia, but it was happening with Caucasian women and children.
Labiaplasties and vulvoplasties claimed on Medicare have more than doubled in Australia over the past decade - from 640 women in 2001 to 1558 last year. The biggest increase has been among women aged 15 to 24 years.
Professor Rane said far more women were having the surgeries than the Medicare data suggested, because they were done privately for about $3000 by cosmetic surgeons.
Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery spokesman John Flynn said excessively protruding labia minora could cause distress for women and lead to rashes and infections. ''It's gone unrecognised for a long time but girls have started to realise you can do something about it,'' he said.