In Cameroon, women “iron” daughters’ breasts to ward off men

Stoen used for breast ironing in Cameroon

Heated stone used to iron breasts of adolescents in Cameroon

When Mick-Sophie Anne started showing signs of puberty at age 10, her mother took a hot stone and firmly pushed it down on her daughter’s breasts in an attempt to flatten her chest.

At dusk, in a small, dark kitchen out of sight of the neighbours, Priscille Dissake would heat the fist-sized stone on a charcoal fire and press Mick-Sophie’s breasts every evening for two months. Dissake’s sister would help by pinning the girl down on the cold, hard floor to stop her running away.

New government research shows that ‘breast ironing,’ as the harmful custom is known, has seen a 50 percent decline since it was first accidentally uncovered during a 2005 survey by the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) on rape and incest in Cameroon.

A successful nationwide awareness campaign in schools, churches and across media outlets has drawn attention to the harmful physical and psychological consequences. However, despite the work of children’s rights activists, 1.3 million girls are still victims of the brutal practice today.

Mothers do it to try to protect their daughters from premarital sex, early pregnancy and rape.

Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation

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