Showing love through breast ironing: why some daughters endure this painful practice to appease their mothers

    By: Clair Fuller on Aug 07, 2017

    Stav Ziv writes, "She was just 28, already a grandmother, and her eldest of five daughters had gotten pregnant at 14. She was determined to keep her other girls from making the same mistake, So this past November, in a village near the city of Bafoussam in Cameroon, she brought her 10-year-old and her 7-year-old inside to flatten their breasts. She took a stone the size of her palm, normally used to smash herbs, and, one at a time, pressed it into the sides of the girls’ breasts and massaged it in circles for about 10 minutes as the other daughter looked on nervously. All the while, the woman’s twin toddlers were running around the room, tugging at her dress. She wasn’t punishing her daughters; she was trying to protect them.

    Egyptian photographer Heba Khamis recently spent a month in Cameroon. Based in the capital city of Yaoundé, she traveled to villages and other cities to speak to girls and women about breast ironing, which is a futile attempt to prevent young breasts from growing. The practice takes different forms—some tie a belt to bind the breasts, while others heat a grinding stone, a spatula or a wooden pestle in a fire and then use it to press, pound or massage them—but the goal is the same. The victim is usually between 8 and 12 years old, and she is considered too young to have breasts and too vulnerable to boys and men around her to appear physically mature. Rebecca Tapscott, a post-doctoral researcher at the Graduate Institute in Geneva's Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy who has researched what she prefers to call breast flattening, says Cameroonian women describe it as 'sending the breast back from where it’s coming.' Though no medical studies have looked at the short- or long-term effects of breast ironing, physicians told Tapscott that the practice could cause infections, benign lumps and other problems. But, in what is perhaps the most tragic twist, it will not stop breasts from developing."

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    Released: August 7, 2017, 9:26 am | Updated: August 7, 2017, 12:15 pm
    Keywords: NAWL News


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