1 in 4 girls in Cameroon suffer this abuse to protect against rape
Friday, July 7, 2006; Posted: 9:49 a.m. EDT (13:49 GMT)
YAOUNDE, Cameroon (Reuters) -- Worried that her daughters' budding breasts would expose them to the risk of sexual harassment and even rape, their mother Philomene Moungang started 'ironing' the girls' bosoms with a heated stone.
"I did it to my two girls when they were eight years old. I would take the grinding stone, heat it in the fire and press it hard on the breasts," Moungang said.
"They cried and said it was painful. But I explained that it was for their own good."
"Breast ironing" -- the use of hard or heated objects or other substances to try to stunt breast growth in girls -- is a traditional practice in West Africa, experts say.
A new survey has revealed it is shockingly widespread in Cameroon, where one in four teenagers are subjected to the traumatic process by relatives, often hoping to lessen their sexual attractiveness.
However, the practice has many side-effects, including severe pain and abscesses, infections, breast cancer, and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts.
The survey found that in 58 percent of cases breast ironing was carried out by mothers worried that the onset of puberty could provoke sexual harassment, inhibit their daughters' studies or even stunt their growth.
Many mothers were alarmed because an improvement in nutrition and living conditions had caused young girls' breasts to develop earlier than ever.
Yikes. I don't recall ever seeing any of this crap mentioned on national geographic. It certainly dosen't say much for a country when this is the best option mothers think they have for protecting their daughters from rape. Maybe someone should consider a pissed off father with a sawed-off shotgun as a better and more effective deterent. God knows there are parts of this country where that threat is in force.
What's interesting about these sort of cases is where to draw the line. At what point is it our own ethnocentrism at work when we condemn the practices of some indigenous peoples. To us, I'm sure it seems barbaric and cruel, but at what point does that simply become an imperialistic form of racism where we know better than the savages?