Not Enough Media Attention
In the past, I have written a couple of articles and held radio programs about breast ironing in Cameroon because I feel the need to talk and raise awareness about this crime.
Breast ironing, like Female Genital Mutilation, is a crime against girls and women, but unlike FGM, breast ironing has not yet received the kind of media attention that FGM has. Breast ironing is the act of pounding and massaging of a girls breast using hard or heated objects like stones, pestles, and special seed fruits to flatten the breast for them to disappear.
Physical and Psychological Pain - and Ongoing Health Issues
There are various reasons why breast ironing is practiced; the most common is that it will prevent a young girl from being chased by men, engaging in premarital sex, getting pregnant, preventing early marriage or rape.
As a teenager, I witnessed a lot of cases of breast ironing in the compound where I live and in the city. It is quite common to see a girl’s breast being ironed. It is really a difficult situation as most of the cases that I witnessed happened in the morning before the girls leave for school and at night. This means that these young girls experience some physical and psychological pain when they wake up and before they go to sleep.
This is a lot for a girl between 10-15 years old to endure.
As a consequence of breast ironing, many victims end up infected with breast cancer and many others confess of not having any sexual satisfaction because of the act.
For other victims, the regrowth of their breast may be normal or never the same again. It may be extremely bigger or smaller than usual.
Not to mention the humiliation that the whole process brings.
Who irons the breast of a girl?
The truth is that it is mothers, grandmothers, aunties and elderly women in the community who perform this act on the little girls.
It is sad to know that women are responsible for violation of a girl’s right. It is about time that women begin to denounce all of these superstitious ways of thinking and acting.
We cannot stop violence against women if women are not ready to say No to violence. We cannot treat the infliction of violence from a single perspective.
“Violence is violence irrespective of who commits the act” (Konda Delphine)
The fault is not entirely that of women.
We have to be objective and examine the power relations of women and men in the society? What real power do women hold to take a decision and stick to it, especially in a case where “the honor of the family” is concerned like in this case? It is also the responsibility of men to put a stop to this act. That is why men and women should work together as equal partners in the fight against violence and also for sustainable development.
Society is also to be blamed.
Sexism should be curbed entirely from the society. Just because a girl starts developing breasts does not mean that she will jump into bed with any man that says hello.
At 10 years old, a girl is still a child and has little or no idea what sex is. Ironing the breast of a child is putting her through so much pain and at the same time opening her mind to why it is done, thereby, forcefully putting questions in to her head and stealing her innocence.
She will start wondering what this “sex thing” is about.
Besides, parents should have some confidence in the children that they raised. They should trust in the fact that these girls have learned a thing or two from their mothers and are responsible children.
Most importantly, if we just invest the amount of energy that we use to flatten the chest of young girls, into fighting these injustices, then the world will be a safer place for these girls.
Why Breast Ironing is Common Crime against girls in Cameroon
Even though the act is not practiced very often in the city these days, it is still a very common in the rural areas of Cameroon. The fact that it is very common makes it seem very normal in the eyes of people.
Secondly, it is not a common thing in Cameroon for the police to interfere in the domestic issues of a family. That is to say, a policeman cannot lock up a mother or father who decides to iron the breast of their daughter. It is even unheard of for children to report their parents to the police.
Even though the act is not practiced very often in the city these days, it is still very common in the rural areas of Cameroon. The fact that it is very common makes it seem very normal in the eyes of people.
Secondly, it is not a common thing in Cameroon for the police to interfere in the domestic issues of a family. That is to say that a policeman cannot lock up a mother or father who decides to iron the breast of their daughter. It is even unheard of for children to report their parents to the police.
Sexism is one of the main reasons why breast ironing is common.
The society puts a lot of pressure on the development of a girl child. Instead of ironing the breast of girls and blaming it on the unknown possibility that they may engage in premarital sex, get married early or be raped, it still bowls back to the mentality of inflicting pain on girls and telling them it is to avoid something bad that may OR may not happen to them.
By the way, the last time that I checked, early marriages occur based on the consent of parents.
Iron the Injustice, Not the Breast
It’s still common because the Cameroon legal system is very complicated.
In fact, the rule of law in Cameroon takes us one step further while traditional practices take us two steps backward. It is about time that the Cameroon legal system shift from recognition to action.
And this is not an advice just for Cameroon, but also for all legal systems in the world. The world has got to move from recognition of women’s rights to actually implementing laws that promote women’s rights. It is not enough to ratify these laws. We must implement them. It will be a shame for Cameroon to ratify laws like CEDAW and other acts that protect the right of children but every one out of four children is experiencing breast ironing in some part of the country.
Well, I said it before and I will say it again: iron the injustice and not the breast.
- Cameroon: Partnering With Local Leaders to Change Traditional Customs - CEDAW 2013
- Gender Equality in Cameroon - Wikigender
- CEDAW: Country Reports - UN Division for the Advancement of Women
- Claiming Human Rights in Cameroon
- CEDAW Success Stories: Cameroon - Unifem
- Make Every Woman Count: Cameroon
- An Activist Fights Breast Ironing, a Ritual Mutilation Practice of Girls in Cameroon - the Grio
- What is Breast Ironing? - Friends of UNFPA
About Konda Delphine
Konda Delphine is a young women’s right Activist. She started her activism as a youth radio presenter and volunteer. After years of youth radio presentation, Delphine began developing interest in women rights. This inspired her to start a program for women. Delphine volunteers with different organisations. She is a member of OGCEYOD Cameroon, IFM-SEI and the Network of International Organisations in Africa (Board Member).
Delphine is a passionate women rights blogger who uses the social media to empower herself and others. Articles written by Delphine have been published on international blogs like The VAP blog and A Safe World for Women. She graduated with a double major degree in Women and Gender Studies and Law from the University of Buea. She further participated in the European Voluntary Service at the IFM-SEI secretariat in Brussels, Belgium where she was part of a global documentary project on poverty. She has also been active in international activities like the Universities on Youth and Development in Spain and Cape Verde as well as the Africa-Europe Cooperation. For more information about her work, you can read her interview on Inspirational Friday, a weekly conversation with inspirational women. You can also connect with her on Facebook, twitter or visit her blog WOFEC-The Blog!
- Konda Delphine on Twitter: @delphinekonda
- Konda Delphine on Facebook
- Voice of Women Initiative on Facebook
- Konda Delphine's Blog: WOFEC-The Blog!
WOFEC-The Blog! (Women for Empowerment and Change ) is a women’s rights blog created to publish different topics on women’s issues. The main aim of this blog is to raise awareness on women issues and receive contributions from young people all over the world. It deal with issues of feminism, violence against women, girl child education, and other global issues. Through this blog, young women will have a forum to share and exchange ideas and questions on issues and challenges that they face as well as share good practices.It is open to young people, who are passionate about change and development.