I was horrified when I read this. It’s so hard to understand how a mother could mutilate her daughter in such a way. You have to believe that a mother loves her child but that it’s such a sad, misguided interpretation of this love, born of hundreds of years of tradition, which provokes these acts. That was my starting point for this poem.
|I love you,
huddled, quivering in the corner,
whimpering, cowering, shivering,
glowering at me through feral eyes.
It’s because I love you that I do this
my Cameroon child.
The grinding-stones are fired,
I take the weighty, seared stones,
Know there is no hate.
26th September 2013 – headline from the Independent
Notes: “Breast ironing: Girls have chests flattened out to disguise the onset of puberty.” A hidden form of abuse known as “breast ironing”, in which girls as young as 10 have their chests pounded with hot objects to disguise the onset of puberty, could be taking place in Britain. The mutilation is a traditional practice from Cameroon designed to deter unwanted male attention, pregnancy and rape by delaying the signs that a girl is becoming a woman. Experts believe that the custom is being practised amongst the several thousand Cameroonians now living here. The UN has identified breast ironing as one of five forgotten crimes against women and estimates that some 3.8 million teenagers are affected. As well as being painful, it exposes girls to health problems including abscesses, cysts, infection, tissue damage and even the disappearance of one or both breasts.
- ‘Breast ironing’: Girls ‘have chests flattened out’ to disguise the onset of puberty (independent.co.uk)