Breast Ironing in Cameroon: Another form of child abuse?

Greetings Tojettes and Tojeknights. I hope your weekend was as fun as mine. I have finally figured out a way to use my laptop (aka heater) without it overheating. This is the reason why I am able to add this new post.

A few weeks ago a friend sent me a video regarding breast ironing and while watching it I was moved by what I saw. I am sure some of you may have already read or watched the videos about the practice that has been taking place in Cameroon. Some people may be in denial but I am not. I have decided to cover this subject and join the march of those creating awareness of the practice and issues associated with Breast Ironing in Cameroon.

Breast Ironing is the pounding and massaging of a pubescent girl’s breast using heated objects in an attempt to make them stop developing and disappear.

Objects such as wooden pestles, grinding stones, spatulas, and coconut shells are heated and used to flatten the breast. The reasoning behind this is that it will prevent sexual behaviour, sexual harassment, early marriage as practiced in some areas and teenage pregnancies thus enabling the girls to complete their education.

(Tools used for pounding and ironing girls breasts)

According to a news report by Current TV, Cameroon mothers’ believe that breast ironing postpones development in young girls and that by doing this, men are not enticed by their breast. In other words the mothers believe that pounding and massaging their daughters’ breasts with hot grinding stone, which obviously burns the skin, provides protective benefit to the child (Yes you read right).

A 2006 report by Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in Cameroon first brought the practice to light. Statics show that 26% of Cameroon girls at puberty undergo breast ironing. This means that 1 in 4 girls as young as 9 years old has had their breasts maltreated. Is this not a form of child abuse? Why are the ‘bits’ of the young boys and men not ironed as it appears mothers are preventing their daughters from the sexual advancement of these young and older males? Ok I know that is not the solution but why must the female suffer in such cases. There is no statistic to show that breast ironing reduces pregnancies pointing to no advantage over normally developed girls so why is it performed?

There has been limited medical research carried out into the practice however, according to Cameroon Today the sad consequences and symptoms of breast ironing include damaged breast tissues, infections, abscesses, risk of breast cancers, trauma and difficult breast feeding as a result of decrease mammary glands in the breast. According to Huffington Post the procedure has been compared to the custom of female circumcision.

Please click on the image below to watch the documentary provided by Current TV regarding breast ironing in Cameroon. (This video is also available on YouTube however, you will need to have an account to view it).

Please watch the YouTube video below produced by A Archer & C Brennan.

I understand that these mothers that allow the act of breast ironing or perform it want their children to get an education and not get pregnant; however the means by which this is done is wrong. I view the whole practice as another form of child abuse – These young girls are vulnerable children that have had their right taken away from them; the right to refuse breast ironing, the right to a fair childhood and the right to not be physically abused. There is no way that the process of breast ironing is a delightful one.

There is obviously a lack of sex education as ‘sex’ is a taboo subject in Cameroon. The argument that there is a culture in place and a tradition is no excuse for burning your child’s skin. The only thing constant in the world is change. Times are changing and the historical cycle and the conditioning of the mothers and fathers minds must be broken.

Children and their parents (Yes girl, boy, mama and papa) need to be educated on the subject of sex, pregnancy, family planning and pubescent development. By the way what are the fathers doing? Where are they? Sitting down chilling while little Simbi screams as her breasts are burnt? As Cameroon Today reports, the way forward is to create awareness and keep everyone informed – young people, parents, health staff, education staff, religious, community and political authorities.

The Network of Aunties Association, RENETA have campaigned to expose the problems of breast ironing. The GTZ have also been vocal in their campaign to stop breast ironing being practiced in Cameroon.

Whilst doing my research I came across a Facebook group that was set up by FABICC (Fight Against Breast Ironing in Cameroon). Please visit their Facebook Group and website where there is more information on supporting the cause.

What are your views on breast ironing? Do you see it as a case of Child abuse? Please feel free to share your opinions.

Stay Connected

NTJ

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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Melody David
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 12:53:16

    This is so sad. I can’t believe that mothers would condone this behaviour in the name of protection and love. It is the same a female genital mutilation, just way of oppressing women. The saddest thing is that these girls will be damaged in more mentally than they ever could be physically as a result of such pratices.

    Reply

  2. Anthony
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 14:28:07

    This is disgraceful

    Reply

  3. Clare A
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 17:44:17

    This is heart breaking. These poor girls are going through so much pain at the hands of loved ones who should be protecting them and not understanding why.

    Reply

  4. att009
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 20:52:19

    It was not until i came across the article on Breast Ironing on Comment.com did i understand that there should be a fight against this practice. I did have to go through that practice at the age of 10. Unfortunately for me, I started developing real early and it was decided that my breasts should be ironed. Although it did not cause permanent physically damage,it sure caused severe psychological trauma. Most times my breasts were ironed with my siblings watching and sometimes laughing. will continue this later

    Reply

  5. att009
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 21:11:53

    the pain from breast ironing is a nightmare. Undergoing breast ironing made me ashamed of myself and i consequently resorted to seclusion. i also remember wearing only cloths which could hide my breasts (pullovers, big t-shirts etc.)but it becomes more of a nightmare if the breasts were not ironed properly. one runs the risk of having one boob bigger than the other. this is an experiences that hunts all through one’s existence but it is best to put it behind and move forward as i did. i know that these parents only have the interest of these children at heart. but in trying to protect their children, they end up hurting them. i think education is the key because, as the years have gone by, so has the issue of breast ironing become less prevalent. in all, i know and understand that i went through that only because my parents wanted to protect me from sexual abuse and shyness resulting from developing earlier than my friends. But unfortunately, some of what they tried protecting me from, are what i still try to fight up till date.

    Reply

    • Tope
      Aug 17, 2010 @ 00:13:29

      Wow! What a moving story. Hearing this first hand has moved me deeply. I’m praying that increasing awareness and the re-education of those still practicing such misguided traditions will bring about necessary change

      Reply

  6. Lin
    Aug 22, 2010 @ 01:48:39

    I agree with everything Tope has said. Your story att009, is truly moving. Thanks for sharing it with us. We all have a role to play, in raising awareness of this horrible practice. Our ultimate goal, should be the complete eradication of ‘breat ironing’.

    There have been a lot of campaigns on Female Genital Mutilation, but not on breat ironing. I for one, had never heard of it, until my bro brought it to my attention. I was really shocked. I will definately be doing my bit. Once again thanks att009 and take care. xxx

    Reply

  7. Rene
    Nov 07, 2010 @ 02:30:55

    Thanks for making this public, so that the world will know that our own human development is hindered only by our own practices. And efforts to change them are not yielding any fruits but threats on our lives. I did intervene in a case of breast ironing and that almost cost me my life, intervening in what is typically known as a family issue. What a shame…Lets fight and help this girls.

    Reply

    • tojesworld
      Nov 07, 2010 @ 19:08:52

      Thanks for checking out my blog and commenting on this post. We have to continue to help those girls whether its through raising awareness or in other way we can.

      Reply

  8. Osagie nogosa
    Apr 04, 2011 @ 06:16:01

    Hello cameroom mother’s breast ironing is not the best a child. Try put a stop to that, thanks.

    Reply

  9. Nnane lucy
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 20:22:46

    Thanks Toje for bringing this to light.Child abuse needs to be eradicated from our society.More sensitization needs to be carried out on this subject,for the betterment of our society.

    Reply

  10. Nnane lucy
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 20:24:27

    please we need more recent updates on this form of child abuse.

    Reply

  11. Furtzbert Habakuck
    Oct 04, 2012 @ 01:47:03

    diese leute sind doch einfach nur schafseckel arschlöcher sauhünde !
    wieso wollen die, dass die mädels keine euter bekommen… krank.
    ALBERT GRAF DU VOLLTROTTEL !!!
    ALBERT GRAF DU VOLLIDIOT !!!
    ALBERT GRAF DU SCHAFSECKEL !!!
    auch wenn du dich als lokführer ausgibst… du wirst NIE ein solcher sein, da du ein VOLLTROTTEL VOLLIDIOT SCHAFSECKEL bist

    Reply

  12. amivitale
    Jun 10, 2014 @ 04:39:53

    The copyright for the black and white photograph of the girl crying is mine. I have not given permission for you to use it here. Please remove it from this page. Thank you.

    Reply

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