According to UN estimates, up to 3.8 million girls worldwide are affected. Breast ironing is particularly widespread in the West African nations of Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Togo and Benin.
“In Cameroon, up to 50 percent of girls as young as ten years old undergo terribly painful breast ironing on a daily basis,” the organisation says.
▲What is breast ironing and how common is it? (via The Week)
(图by HEBA KHAMIS)
Margaret Nyuydzewira, head of the diaspora group the Came Women and Girls Development Organisation (Cawogido), estimated that at least 1,000 women and girls in the UK had been subjected to the intervention.
▲Revealed: 'dozens' of girls subjected to breast-ironing in UK (via The Guardian)
She said her mother told her that "if I don't iron them, men will start coming to you, to have sex with you".
It is often the child's mother who will undertake the breast ironing, which usually involves heating a stone or spoon on a flame then pressing, massaging or flattening the breast. This can go on for months.
▲Breast ironing awareness 'needed in school' (via BBC)
One woman living in the suburbs of an English city told the Guardian how she went about ironing her daughter’s chest at the first sign of puberty.
“I took the stone, I warmed it, and then I started massaging [my daughter’s chest],” she said. “And the stone was a little bit hot. When I started massaging, she said: ‘Mummy, it’s hot!’”
The child developed bruising and the mother was eventually questioned by police, before being released with a caution.
One woman told the Victoria Derbyshire programme she only realised breast ironing was not normal when she discovered her body looked different to her classmates during a PE class at her UK school, which led her to become distressed.
Her sister had breast ironed her from age eight, but her teachers failed to notice when she became withdrawn and stopped wanting to take part in PE lessons.
Like many young girls, Simone was also made to wear an extremely tight strap around her chest to suppress them even more - which caused her difficulty breathing.
A few years later, when she had a baby to the man she was forced to marry, the long-term damage became apparent.
"When it comes to breast feeding, it's so strenuous, like there's a knot inside," she explained. "It seemed like maybe some of the nerves were destroyed."