In Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa, the breasts of young girls are flattened to stop them from getting bigger. During the process known as “breast ironing,” girls’ breasts are stroked with large heated stones, a hammer or spatula to keep them from blossoming. The girls’ mothers believe that men will not see them as attractive, hence stopping the risk of getting raped.
There are 3.8 million women around the world who underwent breast ironing, the Daily Mail reported, citing report from United Nations. While those who subject their daughters under such practice did so to protect them from harm, Leyla Hussein begged to differ. Writing for Cosmopolitan, she said that women are constantly reminded that their rights do not matter “as long as our purity is maintained because that’s what our family and entire society’s honor relies on.”
“By keeping silent about practices such as breast ironing and FGM, we’re telling girls they’re not a priority. The priority is that they’re sexuality is controlled,” Hussein wrote in a call to finally cast the spotlight on the issue.
In August this year, French photographer Gildas Pare, photographed the women in Camerron who underwent the brutal practice. Speaking with Vice, Pare said that mothers who subjected their daughters to breast ironing think that if their breasts do not grow, men will not find them attractive. Their daughters could then finish their education and will not end up getting married.
Pare said that girls aged eight or nine years old had their breasts wrapped with tight elastic bandages; some had their breasts regularly massaged with hot instruments. “The assumption is that heating these tools and pressing them on the girls will melt the fat, which is completely insane,” Pare told Vice.
“They use a wide variety of things in this process: pestles, wooden sticks, spatulas, spoons, and rocks. Most of the objects tend to belong to either their mothers or grandmothers,” she said.
Photos taken by Pare showed how the girls’ bodies suffered because of the cultural practice. Most of them shared that they did not understand why they had to suffer and be treated that way.