Breast Ironing in Cameroon
The UN says that 3.8 million West and Central African girls are at risk of a painful form of body mutilation know as '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. The 'ritual' is performed by massaging the girls' chests with heated objects like stones, in order to reverse their pubescent development. The mums 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. Nevertheless breast ironing is widespread and interestingly, the high prevalence in cities attributed to the effects of urbanization. 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.