Dec 12, 2010

"The Practice of Breast Ironing" -Female Genital Mutilation

         Key facts
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths.
  • About 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
  • FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
  • In Africa an estimated 101 million girls 10 years old and above have undergone FGM.
  • FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
Breast ironing is the practice of using various objects to massage or press on developing girls’ breasts to discourage growth. It is traditional in several areas of Africa, but notably in Cameroon, affecting 1 in 4 girls, according to a study by the development group Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ).

       Usually mothers or elders carry on this tradition meant to delay the appearance of sexual maturity and thus, delay sexual predation. The GTZ reports that the devastating psychological and physical health effects include “damaged tissue, open wounds, abscesses, infections, an elevated cancer risk,…difficulties with breastfeeding and trauma.
Tools used in "Breast Ironing"

  • As breast ironing is a burgeoning issue, current policy suggestions focus on education and awareness. The United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) recommends that “governments in affected countries should raise public awareness of the dangers of breast ironing and why it needs to be stopped,” including “frank discussions of sexuality.” RENATA: National Network of Aunties Association (unwed young mothers trained in sexual health) and GTZ have set forth similar policy positions.
While the World Health Organization has strongly recommended against female genital mutilation, it has yet to recognize the related health and human rights violations of breast ironing. Likewise, the Cameroonian Ministry of Health has not acknowledged the practice.
Breast ironing should be acknowledged as a violation of women’s health and human rights, while addressing its deep cultural roots. Government and NGOs concerned with women’s rights must recognize it and support public awareness and education campaigns to discourage Cameroonian breast ironing.


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