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Breast Ironing - While millions in the western world spend billions of US dollars annually on breast augmentation for aesthetic reasons, in Cameroon some parents are willing to subject their girls to this practice meant to reduce and inhibit the growth of their breast. This practice is usually done on girls in their pre-teens.
This article explains why some parents subject their girls to this and also presents the said consequences resulting from such practices.
What is Breast Ironing:
A very painful practice where by preteens and early teanage girl's breasts ("Boobs") are massaged and pounded with such objects as heated wooden pestles, coconut shells, bananas, stones, spatulas to prevent proper breast development.
The hot heated objects are pressed against the breast and moved back and forward in a similar way as ironing or pressing a dress.
This is reportedly done daily from early breast development years (as young as 9 years old) until the desired results are achieved.
Breast ironing is an illegal practice in Cameroon, Africa in an effort to reduce teen pregnancy and school drop out.
In 2006 a report by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in Cameroon, first brought the practice to light.
Aimed at preventing sexual behavior, sexual harassment and rape and hence pre-teenage sex so pubescent Cameroonian girls could successfully complete their education.
26% of pre-adolescent children are reportedly affected by this practice breast banding or ironing in Cameroon.
As a Cameroon I was very skeptical when i first read of this practice in cameroon.
Upon investigating it and talking to friends, i realize very close friends of mine had have this done while in their preteen or teen years.
No statistic exists showing that this practice reduces teenage pregnancy in any way, pointing to no advantage over normally developed girls.
However the breast symptoms and complications including pain, suffering and trauma on the young Cameroonian girls is very acute.
Health experts have also raised objections to such practice of boobs breast massage.
Cameroon healthcare experts advice parents to have frank talks with their young girls about sex rather than resort to such practice.
Given the age of the girls in question, such painful practices cause permanent damage to the developing mammary glands.
Some health expert warn of an increase risk to breast cancer and other health complications.
Breast ironing is a crime in Cameroon, Africa frowned upon by the state and Cameroonians in general.
Prison sentences go as high as three (3) years for any such offense resulting to damages to the breast as determined by a medical practitioner.
The famous Cameroonian National Network Association of Aunties (French: Réseau National des Associations de Tantines, RENATA) with the support of both the Cameroon Ministry for the Promotion of Women and the Family and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, GTZ) is very strong and vocal in its campaign to halt the tides of breast ironing being practice in Cameroon.
Cameroon facts on Female Genital Mutilation in Cameroon
As is always the case, very few people are aware of Female genital Mutilation in Cameroon.
1 % of the female population of Cameroon are reportedly affect by the practice of female genital mutilation.
There seems to be a regional and a religious connection to the practice:
Female genital mutilation in Cameroon is solely practiced in the South-West and extreme north region of region Manyu, Logone and Chari divisions of Cameroon.
Unlike breast banding or ironing, there seems to be a religious connection in cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cameroon, Africa.
The GTZ reports that all Muslim girls, two third (2/3) of Christian girls and no (0) Animists girls are subjected or affected by the practice.
Christianity (40%) and Muslim Islamic faith (40%) account for 40% each of the religious believes in Cameroon while Animist or traditional African religion accounts for 20%.
Breast banding & ironing affects inner city girls than village or rural area girls. For instance, according to the GTZ report 53% of girls in Douala are subjected to breast banding & ironing.
Apparently, the practice is done by well meaning loving ignorant mothers to their daughters in an attempt to protect teenage girls from rape, sexual harassment and sexual advances.
Some of the sad consequences and breast symptoms of this practice are:
Damaged breast tissue, open wounds, abscesses, infections, increased risk of breast cancer, trauma and difficulties breast feeding as a result of decrease mammary glands in the breast.
I lived in Cameroon Africa for over 20 years, in Douala, Cameroon.
We were part of a very active community and my family had four women in it.
So I was very surprised to learn of breast banding or ironing in Cameroon since i have never heard of it before.
It is reported that 53% of girls in Douala are subjected to breast ironing, yes, in my own home city.
My first reaction was outrage and anger at the report for its "inaccuracy" or mis-representation of facts.
I made quick calls to my friends and family and none knew of it. So i decided to dig deeper. Finally, i found a close friend who admits to having been subjected to this practice and ironically.
After watching a few videos, reading the GTZ reports my views changed. I had to admit my ignorance and the suffering that some Cameroon girls undergo in silence and secrecy.
By bring such to light and educating authoritative members of the community - mothers, fathers, church leaders and civil administrators can this practice be stop.
The future of any nation, especially Africa nations depends largely on the female population.
So it is in our best interest to protect them.
Please share your thoughts and feelings.
By keeping everyone informed - parents health and education staff, religious and political authorities and young people can such practices and fears be properly addressed.
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