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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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.