“Breast ironing” refers to the painful practice of massaging or pounding young girls’ breasts with heated objects to suppress or reverse the growth of breasts. The objects used include plantains, wooden pestles and grinding stones heated over coals. The practice has been documented primarily in Cameroon, and is performed by mothers wishing to protect their young daughters from rape, unwanted sexual advances and early sex and pregnancies, all of which they fear would result from the appearance that a girl has reached the age of puberty. (See: Kouyaté Expert Paper, p. 3; Cameroon Girls Battle “Breast Ironing,” BBC News, 2006)
In its concluding comments for the country of Cameroon, the CEDAW Committee expressed its concern for the continued practice of breast ironing. The Committee called on the State to increase its efforts to eliminate breast ironing and other harmful practices.
Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Cameroon, U.N. Doc. CEDAW/C/CMR/CO/3 (2009),
29. The Committee urges the State party to enact national legislation to prohibit female genital mutilation, as well as any other harmful practice, such as breast ironing, in all instances, to strengthen its awareness-raising and educational efforts, targeted at both women and men, with the support of civil society, and to eliminate the practices of female genital mutilation and breast ironing and their underlying cultural justifications. It also encourages the State party to devise programmes for alternate sources of income for those who perform female genital mutilation as a means of livelihood
Legislation addressing breast ironing should include the following elements:
See also sub-sections on Relevant Harmful Practices Addressed in this Module:
Previous Topic Stove burning