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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UnHerd's rejection of the new isn't as groundbreaking as it seems to think

Tim Montgomerie's new venture has some promise, but it's trying to solve an old problem.

Information overload is oft-cited as one of the main drawbacks of the modern age. There is simply too much to take in, especially when it comes to news. Hourly radio bulletins, rolling news channels and the constant stream of updates available from the internet – there is just more than any one person can consume. 

Luckily Tim Montgomerie, the founder of ConservativeHome and former Times comment editor, is here to help. Montgomerie is launching UnHerd, a new media venture that promises to pull back and focus on "the important things rather than the latest things". 

According to Montgomerie the site has a "package of investment", at least some of which comes from Paul Marshall. He is co-founder of one of Europe's largest hedge funds, Marshall Wace, formerly a longstanding Lib Dem, and also one of the main backers and chair of Ark Schools, an academy chain. The money behind the project is on display in UnHerd's swish (if slightly overwhelming) site, Google ads promoting the homepage, and article commissions worth up to $5,000. The selection of articles at launch includes an entertaining piece by Lionel Shriver on being a "news-aholic", though currently most of the bylines belong to Montgomerie himself. 

Guidelines for contributors, also meant to reflect the site's "values", contain some sensible advice. This includes breaking down ideas into bullet points, thinking about who is likely to read and promote articles, and footnoting facts. 

The guidelines also suggest focusing on what people will "still want to read in six, 12 or 24 months" and that will "be of interest to someone in Cincinnati or Perth as well as Vancouver or St Petersburg and Cape Town and Edinburgh" – though it's not quite clear how one of Montgomerie's early contributions, a defence of George Osborne's editorship of the Evening Standard, quite fits that global criteria. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the full page comment piece Montgomerie got in Osborne's paper to bemoan the deficiencies of modern media on the day UnHerd launched. 

UnHerd's mascot  – a cow – has also created some confusion, compounded by another line in the writing tips describing it as "a cow, who like our target readers, tends to avoid herds and behave in unmissable ways as a result". At least Montgomerie only picked the second-most famous poster animal for herding behaviour. It could have been a sheep. In any case, the line has since disappeared from the post – suggesting the zoological inadequacy of the metaphor may have been recognised. 

There is one way in which UnHerd perfectly embodies its stated aim of avoiding the new – the idea that we need to address the frenetic nature of modern news has been around for years.

"Slow news" – a more considered approach to what's going on in the world that takes in the bigger picture – has been talked about since at least the beginning of this decade.

In fact, it's been around so long that it has become positively mainstream. That pusher of rolling coverage the BBC has been talking about using slow news to counteract fake news, and Montgomerie's old employers, the Times decided last year to move to publishing digital editions at set points during the day, rather than constantly updating as stories break. Even the Guardian – which has most enthusiastically embraced the crack-cocaine of rolling web coverage, the live blog – also publishes regular long reads taking a deep dive into a weighty subject. 

UnHerd may well find an audience particularly attuned to its approach and values. It intends to introduce paid services – an especially good idea given the perverse incentives to chase traffic that come with relying on digital advertising. The ethos it is pitching may well help persuade people to pay, and I don't doubt Montgomerie will be able to find good writers who will deal with big ideas in interesting ways. 

But the idea UnHerd is offering a groundbreaking solution to information overload is faintly ludicrous. There are plenty of ways for people to disengage from the news cycle – and plenty of sources of information and good writing that allow people to do it while staying informed. It's just that given so many opportunities to stay up to date with what has just happened, few people decide they would rather not know.