Poking around the web recently, I found myself on Dibusse Tande’s blog Scribbles From the Den. Tande’s site covers his “personal views on people, places, issues and events in Cameroon, Africa and the world.” Scrolling through the posts, I found one that caught my eye: “Where’s the Outrage? Video on “Breast Ironing” in Cameroon. Before viewing the attached video, I did not know about breast ironing. It turns out that I’m not alone in my ignorance of the practice. Many people who left comments on Tande’s blog expressed shock that this was occurring (most were from Cameroon).   

Some facts about breast ironing:
  • The UN says that 3.8 million West and Central African girls are at risk of breast ironing.
  • In Cameroon where the practice is most widespread, 50% of adolescent girls in cities and a quarter of all girls nationwide have their breasts ‘ironed,’ often by their mothers. 
  • Breast ironing is performed by massaging the girls’ chests with heated objects like stones, in order to reverse their pubescent development. Mothers say it’s driven by fear of unwanted male attention, rape and pre-marital pregnancies. 
  • According to UNFPA, breast ironing exposes girls to numerous health problems such as abscesses, infections, dissymmetry of the breasts, cysts, and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts. 
  • In Cameroon, the Network of Aunties Association, RENATA, made up of members who have undergone the practice, is trying to stop breast ironing by drawing public attention to its dangers in radio and television spots and by disseminating leaflets.*

*Information obtained from Current.com’s online report on breast ironing

Personally I’m really sad that breast ironing happens. At the same time, I think I can see why mothers are engaged in the practice: they love their daughters and want them to be successful. But that’s just my opinion. If you want to see a diversity of viewpoints on one topic from people all over the world, visit the comment sections on these sites:

Current.com; Breast Ironing

Scribbles From the Den: Where’s the Outrage?

Feministing: “Breast Ironing” in Cameroon