Breast ironing: Girls have chests flattened out to disguise the onset of puberty

A white ribbon to commemorate the National Day...

A white ribbon to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Right-to-life Awareness. White Ribbon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.


Cameroon Child

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,
nested eggs on embered bed,
coddling the pestle.
I smell the fear miasma
oozing from your every pore.
Uncurl your foetal ball,
lie flat on earthen floor
or rocking bench or time-clawed table-top.
Trust me, I love you.

I take the weighty, seared stones,
river-smooth, resting in my swaddled palms,
my tools of immolation,
and I beat your pre-pubescent breasts.
I pound your chest and blot your tears.
I raise the flame-blacked pestle and smother out your cries.
I hammer down.  My blows absorb your pain.
My own breasts resonate
with your quaking, mutilated frame.
I do this out of love for you.

Know there is no hate.
Breast-ironing, I will hide your puberty
and stop you being raped.
Your tears are mine.
Your cries are mine.
Your pain is mine.
I love you.

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.


One thought on “Breast ironing: Girls have chests flattened out to disguise the onset of puberty

  1. Pingback: During those irritating times! | Prasun Jajodia's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s