Cameroon: One in Four Girls Subjected to Breast Ironing
Monday, August 1, 2011 10:30 AM

The practice of “breast ironing” is on the rise in the African nation of Cameroon. The U.S. Department of State 2010 Human Rights Report describes breast ironing as “a procedure to flatten a young girl’s growing breasts with hot stones” for the purpose of “[delaying] a girl’s physical development thus limiting the risk of sexual assault and teenage pregnancy.”


Doctors contend that the improvement in nutrition has led to earlier puberty for Cameroonian girls and therefore earlier pregnancy as well. Mothers who want their daughters to finish school before having children may turn to the abusive practice of breast ironing in an attempt to make the young girls less attractive.


Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale, a German NGO, brought the prevalence of the clandestine practice to light in a 2006 report. The report states that nearly one in four Cameroonian girls is affected by this mutilation. The procedure is painful and results in destroyed breast glands, burns, and increased risk of cancer. It also appears that the procedure does not achieve its intended result of stemming teen pregnancy, as victims of breast ironing are becoming young mothers regardless.


NGOs are now working to promote sex education in Cameroon to stop teen pregnancy instead of harmful practices. The biggest challenge in eradicating the practice and educating parents is reaching remote and rural villages.



Compiled from: Nkepile Mabuse, Breast Ironing Tradition Targeted in Cameroon, CNN, Interagency Gender Working Group, (28 July 2011).