Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Breast Ironing in Cameroon. Yes, I said "breast ironing"...

This ~8 minute documentary by the Current focuses on a weird but tragic new cultural trend in Cameroon called "breast ironing".

If that term itself doesn't already have my female readers cringing, here is a description from the accompanying article:

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.

Now that you've been duly warned, here's the video. It's appropriately graphic and disturbing:

This is one of those situations, like genital mutilation, that tests our respect for cultural differences among humanity. How could any mother do that to her daughter? How could anyone think that the masking of secondary sex characteristics is proof against sexual activity — or, for that matter victimization?

There is something you can do about it. The African National Network of Aunties Associations, RENATA, is campaigning against the practice.

From their campaign site:


- 24% have experienced breast ‘ironing’
- It includes the use of hot objects (spoons, herbs, stones or leaves) or salt and petrol
- The risk of having the breasts ‘ironed’ is twice for girls who develop breasts before the age of nine years

Why are the breasts of adolescents ironed?

Many people think:

- That the breasts will attract men
- That the breasts make girls sexually active early and that they risk to become pregnant
- That the girls can grow up normally and can continue their education when their breasts are ‘ironed’


- Massaging the breasts of girls with hot objects terribly hurts and can completely destroy the breasts
- Breast ‘ironing’ can traumatize and negatively affect the girls for the rest of their lives
- It can have negative influence on their sexual behavior
- Physical consequences of breast ‘ironing’ are: horrible pain, abscess and itching, leakage of milk, cysts, picks on the breast, infection of the breasts and strong fever, asymmetric breasts, total disappearance of breasts
- This practice can favor the risk of developing breast cancer

RENATA takes donations of as little at $10 online. Let's just leave it at that.


  1. Just when you think life can't get any harder for these poor women.....

  2. this is so sad, are they being educated about it? do they listen to an outsider, or is it a cultural norm?