The number of FGM survivors, such as Salimata Knight (above), in the UK is higher than previous official estimates. Photo: Getty
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135,000 FGM survivors in the UK, says new study

The number of female genital mutilation survivors in the UK is double the official NHS estimate, according to a new report.

More than 135,000 women and girls in the UK are survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM), according to a new study. The figure is more than twice the previous official estimate by the NHS.

The report, produced by the City University London and human rights organisation Equality Now, estimated that more than 100,000 women aged 15 to 49 and around 24,000 women aged 50 and over who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of genital cutting.

It also predicted that 10,000 girls under the age of 15 have undergone FGM. Previous government figures predicted that 20,000 girls under the age of 15 may be at risk of the barbaric procedure. The new study revealed, however, that around 60,000 girls aged 0 to 14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM, suggesting that the number at risk is far higher.

The study harvested information from surveys in 29 countries in which FGM is practised and cross-referenced it with data from the 2011 British census about women who had migrated from those countries. The number of victims of FGM could be even higher than estimated, as data from 2011 to 2014 was missing from the study.

Efua Dorkenoo, advisor on FGM to Equality Now, said: “The government need to get a handle over this extreme abuse of the most vulnerable girls in our society by implementing a robust national plan to address the issue. 

“Professionals are crying out for clear cut guidance on referral pathways on early identification of girls potentially at risk and prevention; and protocols for documenting and sharing information on FGM between health, children social care, education and the police.”

Today the government, in partnership with Unicef, is hosting Girl Summit 2014, the UK’s first conference dedicated to tackling FGM and forced marriage.

Home Secretary Theresa May and International Development Secretary Justine Greening will be in attendance to announce new measures to tackle FGM at home and abroad.

In March this year the Prime Minister declared that tackling the “disgusting” practice of FGM would be “at the top of Britain’s aid agenda” and said that efforts to prosecute cutters in the UK would be redoubled. He stated his goal to make the practice obsolete “within a generation”.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

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Why do the words “soup, swoop, loop de loop” come to mind every time I lift a spoon to my lips?

It’s all thanks to Barry and Anita.

A while ago I was lending a friend the keys to our house. We keep spare keys in a ceramic pot I was given years ago by someone who made it while on an art-school pottery course. “That’s er . . . quite challenging,” the friend said of the pot.

“Is it?” I replied. “I’d stopped noticing how ugly it is.”

“Then it’s a grunty,” she said.

“A what?” I asked.

“A grunty. It’s something you have in your house that’s hideous and useless but you’ve stopped noticing it completely, so it’s effectively invisible.”

I was much taken with this idea and realised that as well as “grunties” there are also “gruntyisms”: things you say or do, though the reason why you say or do them has long since been forgotten. For example, every time we drink soup my wife and I say the same thing, uttered in a strange monotone: we say, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop.” How we came to say “soup, swoop, loop de loop” came about like this.

For a married couple, the years between your mid-thirties and your late forties might be seen as the decade of the bad dinner party. You’re no longer looking for a partner, so the hormonal urge to visit crowded bars has receded, but you are still full of energy so you don’t want to stay in at night, either. Instead, you go to dinner parties attended by other couples you don’t necessarily like that much.

One such couple were called Barry and Anita. Every time we ate at their house Barry would make soup, and when serving it he would invariably say, “There we are: soup, swoop, loop de loop.” After the dinner party, as soon as we were in the minicab going home, me and Linda would start drunkenly talking about what an arse Barry was, saying to each other, in a high-pitched, mocking imitation of his voice: “Please do have some more of this delicious soup, swoop, loop de loop.” Then we’d collapse against each other laughing, convincing the Algerian or Bengali taxi driver once again of the impenetrability and corruption of Western society.

Pretty soon whenever we had soup at home, Linda and I would say to each other, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop,” at first still ridiculing Barry, but eventually we forgot why we were saying it and it became part of the private language every couple develop, employed long after we’d gratefully ceased having soupy dinners with Barry and Anita.

In the early Nineties we had an exchange student staying with us for a year, a Maori girl from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific. When she returned home she took the expression “soup, swoop, loop de loop” with her and spread it among her extended family, until finally the phrase appeared in an anthropological dissertation: “ ‘Soup swoop, loop de loop.’ Shamanistic Incantations in Rarotongan Food Preparation Rituals” – University of Topeka, 2001. 

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt