Skip to comments.Breast ironing: grim secret of Africa's women
Posted on 07/06/2006 12:06:59 PM PDT by wagglebee
WORRIED that her daughters' budding breasts would expose them to the risk of sexual harassment and even rape, Philomene Moungang started "ironing" the girls' bosoms with a heated stone.
"I did it to my two girls when they were eight years old. I would take the grinding stone, heat it in the fire and press it hard on the breasts," the mother said. "They cried and said it was painful. But I explained that it was for their own good."
Breast "ironing" - the use of hard or heated objects to try to stunt breast growth in girls - is a traditional practice in West Africa, experts say.
A new survey has revealed it is shockingly widespread in Cameroon, where one in four teenagers are subjected to the traumatic process by relatives, often hoping to lessen their sexual attractiveness.
"Breast ironing is an age-old practice in Cameroon, as well as in many other countries in west and central Africa, including Chad, Togo, Benin, Guinea-Conakry, just to name a few," said Flavien Ndonko, an anthropologist for GTZ, a German development agency which sponsored the survey.
"If society has been silent about it up to now it is because, like other harmful practices done to women such as female genital mutilation, it was thought to be good for the girl," Dr Ndonko said. "Even the victims themselves thought it was good for them."
The practice has many side-effects, including severe pain and abscesses, infections, breast cancer, and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts.
The survey of 5000 girls and women aged between 10 and 82 from Cameroon, published last month, estimated that 4 million women had suffered the process.
"When I was growing up as a little girl, my mother did it to me just as all other women in the village did it to their girl children," Mrs Moungang said. "So I thought it was just good for me to do to my own children."
The practice was less common in rural areas because mothers feared their children could be more exposed to sex abuse in towns and tried to suppress signs of sexuality, the survey said.
The practice is most common in the Christian and animist south of the country, rather than in the Muslim North and Far North provinces, where only 10 per cent of women are affected.
In 58 per cent of cases breast ironing was carried out by mothers, the survey found.
Many mothers were alarmed because improvements in nutrition and living conditions had caused young girls' breasts to develop earlier than ever.
The survey prompted a campaign to educate mothers about the practice's dangers. A similar campaign helped to reduce rates of female genital mutilation in Cameroon.
must be proud of her breasts because they are natural," said a campaign leaflet. "They are a gift from God. Allow the breasts to grow naturally. Do not force them to disappear or appear."
Understandably and I agree to a degree. However, there are those who love to preach, but don't practice what they preach. That was my point. :)
It's really sad too that parents do that, kind of living through their children. It so hurts the child for the future, imo.
My brother and sister-in-law do that with my 4 year old neice. They aren't involved in the church and it shows. We pray for them all the time. Although my brother was raised believing in God and going to church and all that, he has fallen away because it's just not important to him and his wife doesn't know much and seems cut off from wanting to know.
Meanwhile, their kids will suffer as they don't guide them with God's will, imo. And I can already see my sister-in-law is forming a "best friend" type thing with my neice, with what she subjects her to (TV programming for teens (not little kids), the clothes she wears, verbage she uses, etc.). What ever happened to kids being kids? Why do they have to grow up so damn fast?
As parents, we're responsible for the future of our country, and our children are that future.
Breast ironing.....I tried it but the wrinkles are still there.
Good holy crap! These folks are unreal. How do they expect these girls to nurse their young?
Try a little magic sizing, or starch. You may need to turn them inside out for best results.
Well it was how I used to get my uniforms to pass inspection...
Why not TEACH the men in their culture not to RAPE!! Instead these people torture their female children because a barbarian male COULD do something to them. SICK....SICK society...uncivilized.
That's just barbaric.
Presumably loss of ability to breast-feed too.
This is a much more extreme version of a common practice in this country in the 1920s, when it was fashionable for girls/women to be flat-chested, and many bound their breasts tightly every day. Probably made them droop early, but since they didn't sleep that way, and certainly weren't burning anything, it probably didn't do any serious damage. My grandmother and her sister both did this.
Just wondering...Do you suppose there are some cultures that believe it's just as barbaric to cut off the working end of a penis?
At the same time, I agree with you. But then again, I'm a "boob man."
How true! Not even that old, I regret saying. Prostitots.
So are the rape gangs that prowl the streets of Cameroon and Tanzania.
Families take extraordinary measures to disguise their daughters...who are at a very high risk of being sexually assaulted...or worse.
Stone Age savagery.
I suppose this makes sense. After all, the only thing a Muslim family has to do after a rape is burn/behead/stone the victim... The others, misguided though they may be, are trying to save their daughters from violence and emotional trauma.
Breasts are not very noticeable in a burka. That is why they wear them.
Sir Mix Alot
My wife's hairdresser(single mom), had one of those pics done with her 14 year old daughter. She proudly displayed the picture at her station. The mom and daughter had the same low cut top on.
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