Sky News urged not to air filmed genital mutilation of young girl

Anti-FGM campaigner Leyla Hussein
Anti-FGM campaigner Leyla Hussein

Anti-FGM campaigner Leyla Hussein publicly urged UK news outlet Sky News not to air footage of a young Somalian girl’s genital mutilation, arguing that it was filmed child abuse.

Hussein, co-founder of anti-FGM campaign Daughters of Eve, learned of Sky News’ plans to air the video when she was invited to take part in the special feature reporting on FGM in Somali. She asked to see the footage in question, which Hussein later described to The Guardian as, “A little girl of about six or seven, being held down and cut.” She says, “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.”

Hussein refused to take part in the feature and brought Sky News’ plans to light, causing a ripple of disapproval. Women and girls’ rights group Equality Now argued that the segment threatened to undo work to frame FGM as child abuse, stating:

“The segment will break broadcasting guidelines by showing an image of child abuse. She can and did not consent to any of this. Bystanders are potentially at risk of action being taken against them too.”

British Somali anti-FGM activist and author, Hibo Wardere, expressed her dismay on Twitter, saying:

“She’s going to grow up knowing there’s a video out there… Would you show any other child abuse happening? Would you happily videotape and show [it] on TV? I don’t think you would. So why treat FGM differently than any other child abuse?”

Executive Director of CATW, Taina Bien-Aime, Tweeted:

After this public outcry, it seems Sky News will not be broadcasting the video of the girl’s mutilation in their feature on FGM this week. Earlier today, UK Labor party MP Tweeted:

Though the footage will (hopefully) not be aired, it is certainly shocking that Sky News thought it would be appropriate to film and broadcast it at all. It is perhaps reflective of our culture in which the pain of women and girls is put on display for the public’s viewing pleasure — in television, film, and porn. But during a time wherein we’re seeing an enormous rise in men filming their rapes and murders of females, then participating in a ritual of sharing the videos with millions online, it is disturbing to see a news outlet take a similarly transgressive video of a girl’s very intimate brutalization and aim to make it available to the world.

Susan Cox

Susan Cox is a feminist writer and academic living in the United States. She teaches in Philosophy.