Discussing An Under-reported Torture To Girls – Breast Ironing

I wish we didn’t live in a world where girls have to physically and psychologically abused to feel safe and still not be safe.

Breast Ironing/ flattening is self-explanatory really, it is the ironing or flattening of the girl child’s breast by pounding and massaging of a girl’s breasts, using hard or heated objects, to try to make them stop developing or disappear.

This barbaric act is mostly carried out by their mothers, aunties, sisters, grandmothers and even nurses.

They believe that this procedure is the best thing to do to their daughters(10-19 years old) to make them look sexually unattractive to men to prevent rape (most men believe that when a girl has breasts she is ready for sex), early marriage and any form of sexual activity that can cause pregnancy which will tarnish the family’s image.

 How breast ironing is carried out

There are several ways in which breast ironing is being carried out

  • Wrapping of the girls chest very tightly with an elastic band or umbilical belt for a very long period of time, this is very uncomfortable, painful and can even last up to a year
  • Heating tools like metal, sticks, heavy stone, pestles, spatulas, spoons, rocks, grinding stones, hot coconut shells, leaves, and hammers over hot charcoal fire, and then pressed on the young breasts – the heat from the tools is required to melt the fat on the breasts, so as to stop them from growing
  • Baked grinding stone to crush the girl’s breast
  • The most widely used implement for breast ironing is a wooden pestle normally used for pounding tubers
  • Using heated leaves to massage and knead the breasts

IcirNigeria

Breast ironing

Countries that practice breast Ironing

Breast ironing is practiced in all ten regions of Cameroon and has also been reported across West and Central Africa, in Benin, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Togo, Zimbabwe and is gaining popularity in Nigeria because women fear for their daughters to be abducted and be used as sex slaves by boko haram. Wikipedia

According to a survey in June 2006 by GIZ (German development agency) in 5000 girls and women between the ages of 10 and 82, it was estimated that one in four had undergone breast ironing, which is 4 million girls, it was also reported that it was commonly practiced in urban areas because girls were more exposed to sexual abuse.

It has been alleged that the practice is also carried out in some parts of Britain since there is no Law that stops a parent from ironing the breast of their daughter(s). It is estimated thousands of girls in African communities in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Luton, Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield, and Leeds may be exposed to the ritual, which usually happens in the family home. Nairaland

The health consequences of breast ironing

As you can imagine, this very painful procedure will have a lot of health consequences, both physically and psychologically

There is no extensive study on the short and long-term effect of breast ironing on young girls (I wonder why) but it has been said that this practice can cause breast tissue damage, breast cancer, cysts, depression, breast infections, formation of abscesses, lesions, itching, trauma inability to produce breast milk later in life, malformed breasts and the eradication of one or both breasts

Doctor Flavein Ndonko, a Cameroonian doctor said “Breast ironing is both physically and psychologically damaging. It can cause infections and abscesses and has been linked to breast cancer, problems with breastfeeding, and severe depression.”

I’ve been waiting to get the facts out to say what I think.

First of all. The fact that women have to go to this painful limit to prevent rape and sexual activity from their daughters is saddening. The high rate of rape is one of the reasons why women fear for their daughters that make them go through this process. In Cameroon, the country which this is most prevalent has one of the world’s highest rape incidences with almost half a million rape cases recorded yearly (this excludes cases not reported as a result of stigmatization and fear).

I can’t remember the scene but I remember someone mistakenly hitting my breast once and I felt a type of pain I never want to feel again. It was PAINFUL! During my research for this post I was crying in my soul for the pain these girls had to go through because they are GIRLS and their body is the crime. Not the uncles and random men that rape them or the system that does not take rape seriously. Their breasts are the problem, their femininity should be scared because that will supposedly reduce the crime and keep them safe.

When has two wrongs ever made a right? Why do these women suddenly think that assaulting them like this, making them ashamed of their body’s biology, making them go through such painful process, enduring pain no one their age (no one ever!) should endure. Feeling like the sin on earth is right because they think they are doing it for the right reasons??

Am I the only one weeping because of this? Because there are better solutions to prevent girls from early pregnancies like sex education and availability of contraceptives than breast ironing??? Strict rules against rapists?

Wait, what do men actually do to prevent themselves from being sexually active or raping people’s daughters? Nothing? Because they are men?. They are on top of the food chain. For centuries women have bent their backs and withstood unimaginable pain for something that is not their fault. Women were not created to be dry chested so why has the society pushed them to such limits? Why are there no laws against people performing such acts? Why are women always bearing the cross?  Why is it so hard to exist as a woman, a lady, a girl, an innocent girl at 9,10!

One of the victims was said to be ashamed of herself when her breast started growing again and started ironing it herself. God!

I can’t imagine the level of depression these girls face and the most irritating thing is that this act does not prevent girls from being sexually active, getting raped or prevented teenage pregnancy. But it still continues to be carried out. There is a thirst in people, in general, to pick a fault with the woman’s body when crimes like rape are being mentioned.

breast ironing
Effects of breast ironing – Via Pinterest

If it’s not what we are putting on, it’s because they have breast like men can’t get used to the fact that we are supposed to have breast.

I am very sad writing this post and a lot of people did not know that such acts exists and is still being practiced, whichever way you can raise awareness for this please do.

Ever heard of breast ironing? What do you think an average person can do to cancel this crime? why do they always punish the girls and not teach the boys to do the right thing?

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47 thoughts on “Discussing An Under-reported Torture To Girls – Breast Ironing

  1. I remember the first time I heard about this practice, I was truly appalled! And women are the one who propagate these practices, same as female genital mutilation. Its so sad that our sexuality and feminity, something we have no control over, is such a threat to our safety.
    And the irony is, it doesn’t even guarantee our safety at the end.

    Thanks for writing about this Funke.

    http://www.blushesndbrushes.com

  2. Ahmed

    In addition to breast ironing, female genital mutilation is another disheartening act practiced by most of these people all in the name of trying to prevent their daughters from being raped and not wanting them to enjoy sex and all.
    I dunno how much effort the WHO is putting into eradicating these things but I know they have statistics and challenges towards them.
    The ball really lies in the court of the people involved in it and the role the government has to play can’t be underrated either. These people really need to be educated on the health effects of these practices and how much it reduces the quality of life, both physically and mentally, they can’t be depriving innocent girls of their sexual rights and feel all is okay.
    We can’t shy away from the fact that the level of illiteracy in Africa is still high up there, when I compare the rate of how fast the world is evolving to how far behind we are I always fear for the future.

    1. Hnmmmm
      Deep words. One way government can help eradicate this is really by education. About health issues, about sex. The illiteracy is saddening

      Female genital mutilation is also still being practiced even with the laws against it in several countries

      Sometimes I get weak thinking of the way out but I’m very hopeful

  3. Enkay

    IT’S sick
    And i legit can’t believe something like this is happening
    Mehn,
    Young girls that should be allowed to explore and express themselves
    Limited like this
    It’s sad tbh

  4. I have heard about this in passing but I did not realize how much terrible it really is. No child should be made to go through this at all. This is terribly wrong.

  5. Wow! I saw this on your IG stories and this is the first ever time i’m Having to read about this sort of thing. It’s so saddening! I wonder how many more practices are centered on having the woman get rid of her sexuality, like? Education is so important but I feel there should be more done. Awareness, laws against this sort of practice and oh, for the love of God, women sexuality and biology shouldn’t be a taboo but should be embraced. Nobody should be told because of the way their bodies develop or because of the hormonal traits that come with this development; they are sinful. They are not. I believe if women around are told truthfully how to better manage their sexuality, not told they are wrong for this natural process, as well, men should be taught even from a younger age that they do not have a right over any other human being, age, gender and sexuality inclusive. Bless up girl for this post.

  6. Favour

    God have mercy, I never knew this was a thing and I must say I’m very sad for these girls just reading this. We need to put an end to this barbaric practice.

  7. I’ve actually never heard of this practice until now, and I was cringing while reading this because I can’t even imagine the trauma these young girls are going through.
    There’s still a lot of work to be done on our continent, so many lives are being destroyed all in the name of ignorance.
    We need to do better!
    Thank you for sharing Funke.

    http://www.theportablehub.com

  8. NOSA

    Hey Funke. Very nice write up. The first time I heard of anything like this, I was like eleven or something. A friend from school was making a joke about big breasts and how her mother said she’d hit her chest with a pestle if it ever got too big. It was very disturbing and this is very hurtful to read. I hope something gets done. People need to let go of this kind of ignorance already.

    1. Argghhh… that’s really sad. Picking the fault from the women’s bodies and not hitting the problem on the head.
      People really need to let go of this kind of ignorance

  9. Ebenezer

    I personally can’t believe this is really happening for real it’s barbaric Our Govt have to do something about this … Thanks so much for coming up with this awesome topic ma’am more grease to your elbow..

  10. M

    Thanks for writing this. Lol I thought I was the only one in this whole world to go through shit like this. And the crazy part is I can’t share it because people assume it’s a made up pity story..

  11. I can not believe I have been unaware of such a brutal practice being followed on my fellow sisters in Cameroon.
    My heart goes out to the innocent girls being put through such agony. In many ways, those girls are stronger than us. Despite the oppression and blame, they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect themselves from sexual predators because they know the government isn’t going to do it for them.

    Thank you for shedding a light on such an important matter.

  12. I am very happy that barbaric acts like this are being brought to light! We have a lot of work to do and we must to protect the girl child! Bless your heart my love for this post.

  13. I was going to comment on this but I keep forgetting. It’s a sick thing to do and it’s wickedness as far as I’m concerned.
    Secondly, using rape prevention as an excuse is total bullshit because even men rape their fellow men / boys so what are we talking about?
    These people just need to change these traditions and move forward. Truth be told irrespective of appearances if someone has the intention of raping a person, what can be done to prevent it from happening? I was so pissed the first time I saw this on your Instagram story.

    http://www.debbrahmaxwell.wordpress.com

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  15. Heart breaking as this is, I am angry. I am angry at the world for this. but I am more angry and women who solicit for this cruelty. I do understand that fear makes us do irrational things, things we think are right for us. But this is painful and really it does no one any good. So are they telling me that a rapist will not still rape these girls if he wants to. Rapists don’t care about all these, they just want to harm your soul. Made me remember a comment from a lady in my school who says the reason why most ladies in our Uni get assaulted is because they don’t dress with dignity. like really?

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  17. This is horrific! its is even harder to read or process all the madness women go through in the world today. We need to sensitize and reorientate ourselves; mostly those in the villages and rural areas. This should be a punishable offense

  18. Seeing these images make me cry for the girls who have to endure this. The thing people seem to be ignorant about regarding rape is that rape has nothing to do with how big your boobs or buttocks are, has nothing to do with how short your skirt is or how revealing your top is. Rape is about control and the perpetrator’s feeling of power over another human being. Babies who get raped have no boobs but that still puts them in harm’s way. The women are left to control a man’s sexual urge by harming themselves. But what about these men? Are they cutting off their penises? Are the ripping their tongues out to hold back those rape urges? Are they sawing off their arms and gorging their eyes out? Rhetoric questions.
    It’s very unfair and these practices should be eradicated and whosoever engages in them should be imprisoned.

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