Female Genital Mutilation
A young woman walks past a campaign banner against female genital mutilation [FGM] at the venue of an International conference.Getty Images

Anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) activists have urged Sky News not to air footage of the heinous practice that the British news channel was reportedly planning to air during a special feature on 6 June. According to reports, the channel was supposed to air footage of the alleged practice prevalent in Somalia, which has now been delayed.

Leyla Hussein,an anti FGM activist and co-founder of the campaign Daughter of Eve, was interviewed by the channel for the feature, following which footage of the banned practice was supposed to be aired as part of the show. However, she asked the producers to show her the footage and after watching it, she requested them not to air it.

She told the Guardian, "A little girl of about six or seven, being held down and cut. You can see her face. People are watching. The film crew are filming. No one intervenes ... when I was cut I remember that most of all, no one intervened." Hence, she did not want the footage to be aired.

The paper contacted Sky News and a spokesperson said, "This week Sky News will broadcast a powerful report from Somalia which sheds new light on the subject of FGM... [it] captures the stark reality of this widespread practice will help our viewers to understand the issues surrounding FGM and its social and cultural acceptability in some parts of the world."

The channel also said that the face of the child would be masked if it aired the footage.

However, Hussein said that she refused to be a part of the feature and asked Sky News not to use her interview as well. "I was guilty of doing this myself in attempts to try to get people to pay attention to FGM, she said. But I had time to think. We are supposed to be protecting children. How is this protecting children?"

Statistics show that Somalia and its neighbouring countries have the highest rate of FGM, which is around 98%. This procedure is largely performed on women aged between 15 and 49 years.

Another anti FGM activist, Hibo Wardere took to Twitter to express concerns about the footage that was to be aired on the news channel.

She told the Guardian that it was inexcusable for the channel to film the incident. "We have not had a single response from Sky News, despite hundreds of activists emailing and calling them. Even if they re-edit, they were there, they were part of her pain and they did nothing to stop it," she said.

Dr Comfort Momoh, an FGM expert at London's Guy's and St Thomas hospitals, said that she had received angry emails from FGM victims about the segment. She said, "They are unanimous. They want the clip to be withdrawn. For them it is about consent. Some of them are very angry. One can argue that there is a place for showing these kind of images, for training and to show the extent of damage and give an insight but this isn't it. You have to listen to the survivors. It is their story and we have to go by how they want that story to be told."

Female genital mutilation involves the removal of the clitoris or both clitoris and Labia Minora. The consequnces of the procedure include bleeding and pain while urinating, extreme discomfort during sex, complications during childbirth and psychological trauma.