Breast ironing: shocking practice of self-harm in Cameroon
Breast ironing: shocking practice of self-harm in Cameroon
Homemade elastic bandage to restrain breast growth

In some areas Cameroon, Nigeria, as well as in other countries of Central and West Africa, barbaric tradition: adolescent girls during puberty are exposed to painful breast ironing procedure… Using hot objects or tight bandages, the breasts are “smoothed” to prevent growth. Mothers believe that in this way they will save their daughters from early sexual intercourse, rape and sexual harassment. Further in the review - the shocking results of the wild tradition.

Victims of inhuman traditions. Photo by Gildas Pare

One in four girls in Cameroon went through this test. In 58% of cases, their mothers are involved in child abuse. So far, 3.8 million African women have been subjected to this horrific procedure. To make girls look less feminine, at the first signs of breast growth, they try to make it flat. Hot stones, wooden rolling pins and spatulas, hammers, heated bananas, and coconut shells are used for "ironing". Recently, French photographer Gildas Pare traveled to Cameroon and captured the victims of this inhuman ritual.

One in four girls in Cameroon went through this ordeal

Girls between the ages of 8 and 15 are tortured. Their mothers are firmly convinced that they are acting for their good, as they save them from early puberty, excessive male attention and extramarital pregnancies. They also believe that in this way girls can be protected from early marriage at a time when they should receive an education. Fathers are often completely unaware of what is happening to their children.

Berry pits and a wooden scapula, which are used to deform the chest

“Breast ironing is not a new idea. I'm glad I was protecting my daughter. I couldn't even imagine the boys corrupting her before leaving school,”one woman explained. "Unfortunately, television encourages sexual promiscuity among our children."

Victims of inhuman traditions. Photo by Gildas Pare

The health consequences of such procedures are simply catastrophic: cysts appear, breasts are deformed, their asymmetry develops, and cases of breast cancer have become more frequent. Trauma can cause scarring, hardening of tissues, and destruction of the mammary glands. Not only physical, but also psychological problems arise: many women develop an aversion to sex and their bodies.

Torture instruments

One of the victims says that every evening she goes with her mother to the kitchen, where large stones are placed in boiling water, and when they get hot, they are placed on the girl's chest and pressed hard on them. Emilia from the south-west of Cameroon admits that she ironed her breasts herself so that she would not be married off - in their village, early marriages were the norm, and she wanted to go to school.

Homemade elastic bandage to restrain breast growth The healer who ironing the breasts

Nowadays, a group of Cameroonian teenage girls, with the support of sponsors, have launched a television campaign to combat breast ironing. They call themselves the "Aunties Association" and call on the world community to pay attention to their problem.

A 27-year-old girl recalls with horror the procedure she was subjected to 17 years ago

Professor Anderson Doh, surgeon, director of the state gynecological clinic in Cameroon, supports this initiative and confirms that such procedures cause irreparable damage to the health of girls.

Hot stone for ironing the chest

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