Pictures for illustration purposes.
As their bodies develop, the beginning of puberty can be a time of uncertainty and even fear for many girls around the world. But "breast ironing," a behavior linked to the start of adolescence, turns this worry into agony for more than 3.8 million girls around the world.
In an effort to stop girls' breasts from developing as they begin to show indications of puberty, mothers start "ironing" them by pounding or massaging their chests with heated objects such as stones, spatulas, and pestles. Breast sweeping or "breast flattening" are other names for the act.
Mothers might also tightly wrap bandages around their daughters' chests to stop the development of their breasts.
Like "female genital mutilation," "breast ironing" is a practice that has been
According to research, "breast ironing" is a popular practice in Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, and Benin, but it is most prevalent in Cameroon, where about a quarter of girls and women have the procedure. However, as many as 1,000 girls representing West African immigrant communities in the UK are thought to have undergone "breast ironing," according to cases that have also been documented there.
Even though the goal of "breast ironing" is to protect girls from unwanted sexual advances, the process can be painful both physically and emotionally.
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