Breast Ironing,  Feminism

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


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.

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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Olotu Funke is a baddie keen on existing fully, documenting her journey with Skin Positivity, Mental Health, Personal Style, and the Life in between.

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