Understanding Breast Ironing

Breast ironing refers to the pounding and massaging of a pubescent girl's breasts with the use of hard or heated objects in order to either prevent the breasts from developing, or to make them disappear. In most instances, they are carried out by the mother of the girl or female relatives in her extended or immediate family under the pretext that she is trying to protect the girl from sexual harassment, rape and prevent early pregnancies lest it tarnish the family name, or, even to allow the girl to pursue education instead of being forced into early / child marriage. 

Where does it take place?
The practice is generally seen taking place in Cameroon - where the generic perception is that girls whose breasts have developed or who show developing breasts are ready for sex. There are also reports that suggest that the practice has spread beyond Cameroon to its diaspora. Instances are also reported across Western and Central Africa, in countries like Benin, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Togo and Zimbabwe, as well as in South Africa (where it has been called Breast Sweeping).

What happens? 
Breasts are "ironed" using anything from wooden pestles and leaves, to bananas and coconut shells, grinding stones, ladles, spatulae and even hammers heated in coals. Breast ironing is disparaging and damaging and can cause tissue damage, pain, cysts and even breast cancer, and can affect the mental health of tthe girls themselves. Abscess formation can also result from it. 

In the Media

Chennai, India