Breast ironing, also known as breast flattening, is a cultural practice that spans all ethnic groups in Cameroon. Men in this part of the country firmly believe that girls as young as 9 years old with developing breasts are mature. In response, mothers who care about their daughters and monitor their daughter’ s breast development will hit the breasts with hot objects such as stones, hammers, umbilical cords, or pestles to stop their development.
In this way, men will find her unattractive and she can continue to receive education. As they planned, the pregnancy rate has declined since 1996. Popular in the past 50 years, this practice was first introduced because it is believed to help women breastfeed and reduce breast cancer.
For many girls around the world, the beginning of puberty represents a period of uncertainty and even anxiety, because their bodies will change. Approximately 3. 8 million girls around the world, becomes anxiuos and it turns into becomes pain, because the start of puberty brings about the practice called breast ironing.
When girls began to show signs of puberty, mothers began to ” iron” their breasts, using heated tools such as stones, spatulas, and pestles to beat or massage their breasts to prevent them from developing. This procedure is also called breast flattening or breast sweeping. In order to stop girls from developing breasts, mothers may also tightly wrap bandages on their daughters chests to stop the growth.
Although studies have discovered that ” breast ironing” is practiced very well in Chad, Guinea- Bissau, Togo, and Benin, mostly common in Cameroon, where nearly a quarter of girls and women there have ironed their breasts. There are also case reports in the UK. It is believed that as many as 1, 000 girls from the immigrant community in West Africa in the UK have received a ” breast iron” , according to the ” Weekly” report.
Although ” ironing” is designed to protect girls from unnecessary provocation, this practice can cause physical and mental trauma.
The ” ironing” process itself is painful and may make the girl feel ashamed of her body. Ultimately, ” ironing” is ineffective because it cannot prevent breast growth.
Although ” breast ironing” is not entirely performed by mothers on daughters, this practice is usually performed by the girl’ s mother or female relatives; however, according to Newsweek, in some cases, girls will ” ironing” their breasts.
Heated tools usually leave scars, and the wound will make the girl more susceptible to infection and cause complications later in life. Some women whose breasts have been ironed say that they find it difficult producing milk and breastfeeding babies later in life.
According to Newsweek, Cameroonian mothers hope to ” ironing” their daughter’ s breasts to make their daughters less attractive to men, avoid early marriage and early pregnancy, and allow them to continue to school. Although this practice is no properly understood, this fear of early pregnancy, marriage is not unfounded.
According to UNICEF, 38% of the young girls in Cameroon are married on or before their 18th birthdays.
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