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Ayushi Agarwal

IWB Blogger

Women In Africa Undergo Breast-Ironing To Avoid Rape

  • IWB Post
  •  October 24, 2015


How can rape be avoided?

The answer to this simple question has resulted in a variety of controversies and even mass uproar, in recent times. Some advise girls not to wear revealing clothes, or give the boys a ‘come-hither’ look if they intend to just tease them, and some have even dared to advice us to return back home early at night. All these statements point towards the fact that both the culprit, and the victim in a rape case are ultimately women themselves.

Their sexuality and femininity are such potent factors, that a man loses all sense of self- control and gets a pressing need to conquer and fornicate with that woman. So, who is to blame here? Women. Who need to change here? Women.

Absurd, isn’t it? This mindset not only prevails in the Indian society, but the African one as well. A practice called as, “Breast Ironing” has come into existence, by some evil force of nature. Young girls, some of even 8 years old with developing breasts, are forced to iron their breasts in order to evade the ‘male gaze’, which will automatically help in avoiding sexual harassment, rape and teenage pregnancy. (Who even comes up with ridiculous things like these?)

breast-ironing-759This disturbing traditional practice prevails mainly in east, west and central Africa, especially in Cameroon. The practice is carried out by the female members of the household, with the use of stones, hammers, or spatulas heated on hot coal. The process continues for weeks, and the girls are supposed to bear the excruciating pain.

Leyla Hussein, a blogger for Cosmopolitan writes, “Breast ironing is just another way to control a woman’s sexuality and perceived attractiveness. Breasts become a dangerous body part that must be removed in case they attract male attention, as if removing all signs of femininity from a girl’s body could protect her from being raped”

She further stated, “What an absurd world we live in when women’s bodies are not considered safe in their natural state, and men are not considered responsible for controlling their own urges”

A photographer after meeting the women in Cameroon told Vice.com, “It’s hard for them to undress in front of their boyfriends—if they even have one, that is.” The practice takes a toll on the mental state of the women since their femininity ceases to exist. Apart from the emotional trauma, breast-ironed women are unable to  breast-feed their children, and attain a higher risk of getting cancer.

The UN estimates that 3.8 million young women are at risk of breast ironing in Central and West Africa.

It’s a shameful time for humanity.

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