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16 is too young for intimate piercings – says National Assembly committee

10/02/2017

​The age of consent for intimate piercings should be 18 rather than 16 as proposed by the Welsh Government, according to a National Assembly for Wales committee.

In recommending that the National Assembly approve the general principles of the Public Health (Wales) Bill, the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee disagreed with the Welsh Government's decision to allow under 18's to consent to having an intimate piercing.

The Committee had serious concerns about the medical implications associated with intimate piercings, and the potential vulnerability of some 16 and 17 year olds and what may be happening in a young person's life that prompts them to want an intimate piercing at age 16.

The Committee also wants the Bill strengthened to prevent anyone convicted of a sexual offence gaining a licence to undertake special procedures such as intimate piercings.

"The Committee agrees with almost all of the provisions within the Public Health (Wales) Bill, but we are absolutely convinced that the age of consent for intimate piercings should be 18 years old", said Dai Lloyd AM, Chair of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee.

"Given the weight of evidence from medical and environmental health professionals regarding the significant harm an intimate piercing can do to a still developing body, we were not convinced by the Minister's rationale for choosing the age of 16, and so we welcome her commitment to consider this matter further.

"We are also extremely concerned that the list of offences excluding people from gaining a licence for special procedures, including intimate piercings, does not currently include sexual offences. We believe the Bill should be amended to include this restriction."

The Public Health (Wales) Bill addresses a wide range of issues affecting people's health.

If passed, smoking in the grounds of schools, playgrounds and hospitals will be banned. It would also mean the creation of a national register of retailers of tobacco and nicotine products; a change in the way pharmacy services are planned across Wales; and a requirement for local authorities to take a strategic view on how toilet facilities can be provided for and accessed by their local population.

The Committee makes 19 recommendations in its report including:

  • That the Minister urgently examines the potential to introduce measures to tackle obesity and other priority public health issues, either through this legislation or under existing powers;

  • That the Minister undertakes urgent work to understand the scale at which body modification procedures are carried out in Wales and assess what level of risk this poses to public health, with a view to adding these to the legislation as soon as practically possible;

  • That the Bill should be amended so that there is no provision for a blanket exemption on the face of the Bill for any healthcare profession. Any healthcare profession, including doctors, dentists and nurses, should only become exempt from the licensing requirement via regulations and following consultation with the relevant professional bodies; and

  • That Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) be re-named Health and Well-being Impact Assessments (HWIAs) to ensure an up-to-date understanding that is consistent with other legislation is delivered to the public and to practitioners.

The Public Health (Wales) Bill will now be debated by the National Assembly before a vote on whether it should continue to stage 2 of the Assembly's law-making process.

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