A female genital mutilation (FGM) campaigner was left in tears after an experiment intended to assess the impact of political correctness on the fight against cutting saw 19 people sign a fake pro-FGM petition within 30 minutes.
Leyla Hussein, 32, who suffered female genital mutilation as a child, approached shoppers in Northampton with the petition, which argued that as FGM was part of her culture, it should be protected.
During the 30-minute experiment, 19 people signed the petition and just one refused - a result Hussein blamed on the all-pervading culture of political correctness.
Speaking to the Evening Standard following the experiment, Hussein, who also appears in upcoming Channel 4 documentary, The Cruel Cut, said: 'I kept using the words "it's just mutilation". They were like "yes, you are right". How can anyone think this is OK?'
Warning that politically correct attitudes could hamper the fight against FGM, Hussein added: 'FGM is not culture, it is violence.
'Stop using the culture word. This is happening to children. We are human beings, we can't watch children being cut, I don't care what culture you belong to.'
'It is incredible that UK citizens would sign a petition supporting child abuse,' Efua Dorkenoo, Advocacy Director of Equality Now's FGM Programme, told MailOnline.
'It’s time for everyone to stop worrying about being seen as racist or stepping on "cultural eggshells", when in reality, doing nothing to protect girls at risk of FGM is what is actually racist.'
CRUEL CUT: FGM EXPLAINED
Despite the claims of practitioners, there are no health benefits associated with it, while complications include severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths.
About 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM and 30 million are thought to be at risk.
In the UK, an estimated 66,000 women are believed to have undergone the process and 24,000 girls are considered at risk.
'Don't worry about meddling if you think a girl is at risk. You could be safeguarding her future and being a vital part of the solution to this despicable form of torture.'
Hussein is now calling on Home Secretary Theresa May to take responsibility for drawing up an action plan against FGM - an issue currently shared between the Home Office, the departments of Health and Education, the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service.
In the Channel 4 documentary, Hussein is seen attempting to secure an interview with May as well as confronting her own mother about why she allowed her daughter to undergo FGM.
Hussein also spoke of her own experience of FGM, which took place in Somalia when she was just seven years old.
'Four women held me down and cut my clitoris,' she said. 'I felt every single cut. I was screaming so much, I just blacked out.'
According to a recent study by UNICEF, as many as 30 million girls are at risk of being subjected to FGM within the next decade, including 24,000 in the UK.
The health effects of FGM range from severe bleeding and problems urinating to cysts, infertility and complications in child birth.
It has also been linked to deaths, most recently that of Soheir Fawzy, a 13-year-old Egyptian girl who died earlier this year after undergoing FGM.
Although Hussein's experiment is the first time that the impact of political correctness on the anti-FGM campaign has been studied, ministers have already warned that peoples' fear of speaking out could mean suffering goes unnoticed.
Last week public health minister Jane Ellison declared that vulnerable girls are being 'failed' because people do not want to be seen as 'culturally insensitive'.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, the minister said: 'Because of that caution, bizarrely, we've ended up protecting the most vulnerable girls the least.'