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IPS Examines The Practice Of Breast Ironing In Cameroon

Inter Press Service reports on the practice of breast ironing in Cameroon, a custom carried out by one-quarter of mothers in the country that is meant to reverse female sexual development in an effort “to avoid sexual contact between young girls and boys.” The news service writes, “An estimated one in four girls suffers from the practice in their childhood. Breast ironing is a traditional ritual in which, by using heated and flat objects, a girl’s growing breasts are pressed in order to suppress and reverse their development.”

“Apart from being painful and psychologically traumatic, breast ironing exposes girls to multiple health problems. According to many medical reports, it can lead to abscesses, itching, inability to breastfeed … babies, infection, deformity or disappearance of the breasts, cysts, tissue damage and even breast cancer,” IPS writes. However, the news service notes, “Burning girls’ emerging breasts to many mothers seems a far better option than the risk[s] of … unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, possible rapes or the transmission of sexual diseases” (Ortiz, 10/1).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.