According to a new report by Current TV, the brutal practice of breast ironing is on the increase in the African country of Cameroon, affecting one out of every four girls, which is around 4 million in total. It is believed that 50% of girls are subjected to this practice in the southeastern region. In the Muslim north only around 10 % of girls are involved.
Through the use of hot coconut shells, stones and other objects the young girl’s breasts are massaged, pounded and flattened.
In Cameroonian society a girl can be married once her breasts appear, as her breasts reveal she is ready to have sex. The Cameroonian mothers’ goal is to put off their daughter’s development so men will not be attracted by their breasts. The mothers believe the method will defend their girls from *** harassment, early pregnancy and rape, all of which will blemish the family name.
Girls are starting to reach puberty as young as 9 years old, due to the dietary habits of the nation having improved over the past 50 years. Half of all Cameroonian girls who are under the age of nine have their breasts ironed.
It is considered that breast ironing can lead to various physical issues, such as burns and deformations, as well as the risk of breast cancer and psychological problems. Not only is the procedure extremely painful it causes tissue damage that can make difficulties with breastfeeding.
The perpetrator can face up to three years in prison if a medical doctor can determine that damage has been caused to the breasts and the matter reported within a few months. The mothers however claim the process is born out of concern and love for their daughters.
Breast ironing also happens in Guinea-Bissau, West and Central Africa, as well as Chad, Togo, Guinea-Conakry and Benin.
A non-governmental crusade opposing breast ironing is under way. However, traditional belly ironing, or postpartum massaging, is also common.
A woman who had just delivered a baby is subjected to belly ironing, where a traditional broom, dipped in boiling water, is used to whip the belly. A towel soaked in boiling water is used to massage different areas of the body. In some provinces, the woman is told to sit on a bucket of hot water so the vapor rises into her vagina and uterus. This can cause cervix damage, scars, vaginal infections or burns. The belief is that it is very important to remove the remaining blood after giving birth, so Cameroonian women accept the tradition.
Other customary harmful practices of females have involved such tortures as the chastity belt, Chinese foot binding, rib-breaking corsets and female genital circumcision.