Yes! Breast Ironing! You read correctly.
I get that reaction almost every time I talk about it, most people have no idea what it is about and when it is eventually explained they simply cannot believe that it is real but every single thing about to write about is the grim reality of some girls in different parts of Africa and even in the world.
Breast ironing is a painful and harmful cultural or traditional practice where the breasts of young girls that are seen as growing too fast are ironed back in with the aid if substance like hot pestles and stones.
I think this is beginning to sound like an essay so let me paint it in a more relatable way.
Basically, in some parts of Africa particularly Cameroon, when it is realised that the breasts of a young girl, say within the ages of nine till thirteen, are growing fast or is getting bigger, it is ironed in.
The rationale behind this is that the earlier they start showing big breasts the earlier men get attracted to them to either sexually harass them or demand for their hands in marriage, they usually do this to ensure the girl stays longer in school without being pregnant or raped.
You might ask how in the world is this done? Well its not as unrealistic as you might think, the girl is held down by adults or tied to a bamboo bed, pestles or grinding stones are heated over hot coals and then used to massage the breasts of the girls and it is done from a period ranging between a week and a month. In some milder cases, the girls are made to wear a kind of metallic tube for a long time.
Eventually, the growth of the breasts are stunted and the mothers are happy. Yes, it is usually the mothers that do it, the fathers are usually unaware about the process.
The first time I got to know about breast ironing was when I was writing my final year project in the university on “Feminist Jurisprudence: The rights of women in traditional African societies” and I was filled with so much rage and pain, I simply could not imagine a child as young as nine going through the process of breast ironing, or any child at all.
Nothing irritates me as much as the rationale, I mean how could you possibly think that doing such barbaric act would stop men from raping or the girls from having sex, what is the business of a man that wants to rape with the breasts. In so far as there is a vagina somewhere, he simply does not care. Breast ironing would not stop the sexual urges of the girls either.
Contrary to the belief of some that I am sentimental about violence or harmful practices against women, I am actually very realistic and would report things as they are. In as much as I stated clearly that these painful acts are actually perpetrated by women the truth whether you believe it or not is that patriarchy has a lot to do with it. This is a system where the men are idolized so the women have to do anything to either gain their approval or protect themselves from the harmful ones. This post is not about patriarchy so I would not spend much time talking about that.
Why am I writing this post? Awareness. I said in one of my posts that sometimes we are too comfortable in our corners of the world that we fail to realize what others are going through, in fact in instances such as this we can’t even imagine it. We might not be able to do much but the least we can do is to try to spread the word till it gets to someone who can.
Breast ironing is not a figment of imagination, it is real and thousands of girls all over the world still go through this because of ignorance. At the end, these girls have stunted breast growth, highly abnormal unequal breasts, breast feeding issues and even breast cancer.
Be aware today! Take a little time to check these things out and realise that feminists are really not devils seeking to bring the world down but sometimes they are really trying to revive the humanity in us blinded by customs and traditions.
Let me leave you with what motivates me concerning these issues sometimes. Take a little time to imagine the process of breast ironing and then imagine it being done to your daughter, sister or yourself, how would you feel?