Remember the first days when puberty started to hit our little bodies? We began to grow hair in places we’ve never thought possible, had reality slapped across our faces in the form of menstruation, and developed mosquito bite-sized breasts. All of these were indeed overwhelming and a little bit daunting, but luckily mum was around to tell us that the changes were normal and completely natural.
But what if your hormonal changes were not welcomed and you had to defy Mother Nature by altering your body’s development?
This is where the cruel, draconian ritual of â€œbreast ironingâ€ comes in.
Breast ironing refers to the painful practice of massaging or pounding young girlsâ€™ breasts with heated objects to suppress or reverse the growth of breasts.
The objects used include plantains, wooden pestles, spatulas, coconut shells, and grinding stones heated over coals.
The practice has been documented primarily in Cameroon, but is also practised in Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Togo, Benin, and Guinea.
Cameroon remains the only country where thorough research has been carried out on breast ironing. The practice is widespread across the region and among the West African diaspora, including in Western countries with stringent child-protection laws.
Breast ironing is often performed by mothers or female relatives of victims misguidedly wishing to protect their young relatives from rape, unwanted sexual advances, early sex, and pregnancies, all of which they fear would result from the appearance that a girl has reached the age of puberty.
The age-old tradition is extremely painful and can cause tissue damage. There have been no medical studies on its effects, which includes breast cancer, cysts and depression, and perhaps interfere with breastfeeding later. Other possible side-effects are breast infections, the formation of abscesses, malformed breasts and the eradication of one or both breasts.
However, because such practice is painful as it is incredibly harmful, tradition or not, it has to be abolished.
Several awareness campaigns have been conducted in schools, churches and across media outlets drew attention to the harmful physical and psychological consequences. In spite of the increased consciousness, 1.3 million girls remain victims of the brutal practice today.MYNEWSHUB