Breast ironing - the barbaric pounding of young girls' chests with hot objects to "protect" them from rape and sexual harassment has been around for a long time, like female genital mutiliation (FGM), but it is now on the increase because of the fear of rape by Boko Haram members in Cameroon.
It is believed that with flat breasts, the girls will become unattractive and thus avoid being abducted and raped by Boko Haram members.
How is it done?
A heavy stone or pestle used for grinding food is heated with fire, then pressed on a girl's breasts to 'flatten' them. Those involved in the practice believe the heat from these tools can melt the fat on the breast, and stop it from projecting.
Analysts say breast ironing was initially done by women with the thought of improving a mother’s breast milk. But the thought later changed when rape and teenage pregnancy became rampant, and breast ironing became a popular way to ensure girls are less desirable to boys, thereby preventing early pregnancy.
In its its 2014 human rights report on Cameroon, the U.S. State Department said “the procedure to flatten a young girl’s growing breasts with hot stones, cast-iron pans, or bricks” has “harmful physical and psychological consequences, which include pain, cysts, abscesses, and physical and psychological scarring.”
The local press in Cameroon reported that up to 50 percent of girls undergo the very painful procedure on a daily basis.
Girls from rich families are made to wear a wide belt, which presses the breasts and is supposed to prevent them from growing.
While the tradition is widespread in Cameroon, similar practices have been documented in Nigeria, Togo, Republic of Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa.
Some girls in the region, in an attempt to escape early marriage, also try to flatten their own breasts so they can delay their sexual maturity and continue going to school.
One woman said breast ironing is even more painful than childbirth, and that it did nothing to prevent her from getting pregnant before marriage.
I'm sure you agree with me that this practice is truly barbaric and it is sad that Boko Haram is fuelling its rise!