Womanhood – A Scare

As if the already existing norms and atrocities on women weren’t enough, there’s one more ghastly practice prevalent in some regions- Breast ironing or “Repassage des seins”. This practice is mostly prevalent in Cameroon, where mothers try to hinder the growth of their pubescent daughters’ breasts by ironing or massaging them with hot objects, straight out of fire, like knife, grinding stones, rod, coconut shells etc. This technique to delay sexual development is a tradition in Cameroon which is rarely discussed in public.

They justify their act to hide the budding womanhood as an attempt to save them from sexual assault and teenage pregnancy. Mothers want their daughters to finish school and be educated before they leap into parenthood. The young girl has to endure this for months or years if the growth of their breasts defy the heat technique.

This is a case where the motive is the welfare of the girl child but is done by mutilating them. The wounds are usually inflicted by women and in most cases the male members of the family are unaware of such activities.

The trauma, of course, leaves the girl permanently disfigured – both physically and mentally, in some cases resulting in deformities, breast cancer, burns, damage to breast glands and psychological issues.

Mothers find nothing wrong in this barbaric act. They see this as a medium for their daughters to look less desirable and an escape from the ordeal of early pregnancy that they had suffered.

Many NGO’s and charities are launching campaigns and educating mothers about the importance of sex education rather than breast ironing to prevent teenage pregnancies.

I used to write about dowry, girl education and female infanticide in school. And today, a decade after, I am still writing about the same issues in addition to this new found barbarism. The depressing state of women is ashamedly common through all centuries. Women emancipation is nothing but a farce.

That often leaves me wondering, are we living in Neanderthal era or were those times better?

Rajlakshmi H