Stamping out FGM

In the time it takes you to read this article, over 50 young girls will have their clitoris hacked out. What are you going to do about it? Each girl will be pinned down, with no anaesthetic, whilst 8,000 nerve endings cringe at the touch of an unclean scalpel. Each girl will scream and writhe and howl – but you won’t hear them. Each girl will be irreversibly, unbearably, agonisingly mutilated. “I heard it,” described Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “like a butcher snipping the fat off a piece of meat. A piercing pain shot up between my legs”. Skin rips, blood pours, cries screech. But it wasn’t over for her just yet: next “came the sewing… the long, blunt needle clumsily pushed into my bleeding outer labia,” thread weaving through thread to leave behind only a miniscule opening for urination and menstruation. The scars of this torture, butchery on a factory-line …

Long live the king?

It was the great 16th Century French essayist Michel de Montaigne who best expressed the idea that travel broadens the mind: “Je ne sache point meilleure école à former la vie”.* To travel, though, is not only to learn more about ourselves, but also to catch what we may be tempted to label brief glimpses of truth, glimpses that are rarely – if ever – afforded to those who live, day in and day out, in the pell-mell of our destinations. An outsider’s empiricism is often the best kind: nonpartisan, unflinching, honest. One such glimpse occurred to me as I was travelling down one of the many canals that form the veins and arteries of the Chao Phraya River, as it carves its way through the magnificent heart of Bangkok. “Long live our beloved king,” the banner read, flailing desperately in the wind that rushed across the waterway, interminably barraging …

An interview with David Miliband

“If you ask that, you’re dead”. Perhaps asking Philip Mudd, a senior CIA and FBI operative, what question he most feared was a naïve error of judgment. But I certainly didn’t expect a death threat. Fortunately for me, David Miliband’s congenial persona swept away the atmosphere of a Guantanamo interrogation room. His history is impressive to say the least: the youngest Foreign Secretary for 30 years; Environment Secretary; winner of the most number of votes of Labour MPs and Labour Party members, but not of Trade Unionists, in the 2010 Labour leadership election… the list goes on. And just when I’m on the point of questioning whether I have the requisite acumen to interview a political colossus, he steps into the room, the last of the evening sunlight spotlighting his face. In the flesh, he’s an imposing presence, confident in stature, a streak of white hair bristling on a bed …