The government is to set up a unit to tackle female genital mutilation as part of a wide-ranging package of reforms to stop the practice in the UK.

Speaking at the Girl Summit – a major international conference in London designed to highlight the issues of FGM and child marriage – the home secretary, Theresa May, said the cross-party unit would help protect thousands of girls across the country.

The unit, which could operate in a similar way to the government's forced marriage unit, has been a key demand of campaigners against FGM. "These measures will ensure that we can maintain the momentum on stamping out these harmful practices," May said.

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