Adele Butler is Taking Action!

The War Against Womanhood

‘Breast ironing’ is not only a term, it is really a hot iron used thinking the breast will flatten …Stones are heated on scorching flames and are massaged rigorously to limp a girl’s firm nipples and flatten her breasts. Other common tools include bananas, coconut shells, spatulas and hammers heated over a blistering fire.
Just recently I read about a practice in Cameroon which deeply disturbed me. In the privacy of their homes and behind closed doors, pubescent girls are subjected to breast ironing. Breast ironing is when mothers use objects like grinding stones, mortar pestles, coconut shells or hammers heated over coal to flatten their daughters’ breasts. It is a brutal attempt to destroy any emerging signs of womanhood.
Why do these mothers go to such lengths to destroy the symbol of femininity and the pride of womanhood? They are deforming their daughters’ breasts in a misguided and uneducated attempt to protect them from pregnancy and early marriage which could end their education. Unfortunately breast ironing is not a deterrent to teenage sexuality and many girls still end up getting pregnant. All breast ironing does is cause excruciating pain and violates a young girl’s rights. A 25-year-old victim said that she felt embarrassed each time she was naked amongst her peers because her breast tissues were worn out like those of an old woman. She disclosed,

The thing is very much alive everywhere, yet no one talks about it because it is done behind closed doors and kept as a secret between mothers and daughters. Not even the fathers are usually aware of these acts.”

This practice expands and destroys the developing tissues in the breasts by heat during the ironing, medical experts say. The United Nations Population Fund’s research findings revealed that breast ironing exposes girls to numerous health problems abscesses, cysts, itching and discharge of milk. There can be permanent damage to milk ducts, infection, and dissymmetry of the breasts, cancer, severe tissue damage and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts. Victims end up with marks, wrinkles and black spots on their breasts. One victim developed breast cancer as a result of this inhumane practice and ended up losing one of her breasts in a surgery. Can you believe that her mother saw the cancer as a spell and subjected this poor girl to more intense ironing sessions? A knife heated on a fire was used to press them.
It is hard to believe that mothers would prefer to destroy their daughters’ breasts than to face the embarrassment of talking to them about sex. As a result the rate of premarital pregnancy is on the rise in Cameroon, making up 30% of pregnancies, according to local healthcare workers. And this is all due to the lack of sex education.
These mothers, although they may be worried about their daughters and believe that they have their welfare at heart, are violating these girls’ fundamental rights.

They are destroying what is a natural part of a girl’s development.

Breasts are nothing to be ashamed of. God created them for good reason. Everything He created He saw that it was good. Sadly, these mothers don’t hold this opinion. One mother even said, “So long as it will not kill the girl, I will prefer the breast to be deformed and have her go through her education without an unwanted pregnancy or the deadly HIV virus.”
We need to stop this war against womanhood by encouraging the victims to speak out. Shekina, the author of the article on this practice, fought with her grandmother and this freed her from being a victim of breast ironing. She encouraged Lindsay, a young girl with a deformity to open up about her own experience. We need more girls like Lindsay to be freed from this torture. According to the United Nation’s Population Fund, statistics show that one of every four girls in Cameroon is a victim of breast ironing. This means that 3.8 million girls undergo this horrendous process at the hands of their mothers or local women who serve as professional breast flatteners in exchange for palm oil and wood.

We must end breast ironing.
It inflicts pain and it’s an enemy of women’s liberation because it prevents them from accepting their bodies as normal and in my opinion, God’s beautiful handiwork. Women should be proud of their bodies, not ashamed. It’s hard enough for a pubescent girl to accept or feel comfortable with the changes her body is going through without having to deal with deformities or disfigurements.
Cameroon signed the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which was put in place in September 1990. According to Article 19 of the convention, “States parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse while in the care of parents(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.” This convention was ratified by Cameroon in 1993. Its terms clearly state that the government has a legal responsibility to protect these girls from the injury and abuse of breast ironing.
Three things need to happen to end this war and emancipate its victims. 1. The perpetrators need to be reported to a court of law. 2. The victims need the courage to report their mothers. 3. The women need to be educated. They need to be convinced that breast ironing is not a solution to the teenage sex problem. Educated women will understand the need for sex education and will counsel their daughters about their sexuality instead of mutilating their bodies.

Education is key and it will prevent other girls from feeling like Aline, a victim of breast ironing who confessed that she felt like an outcast amongst other girls. “I knew many of my friends whose mothers did not press their breasts; it made me feel sad, I spent my whole days in class thinking about what grandma will do to me after school and so could not study. I ended up failing my exams and was dismissed for extremely poor academic performance” .
The government of Cameroon needs to step up and protect these girls—free them from cultural practices that are affecting them physically, emotionally, mentally and socially. It’s time to stop the war against womanhood. It’s time to stop the abuse. It’s time to break the silence. It’s time to Take Action.

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