Painful chest ironing in women

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Painful genital mutilation in Cameroon

An otherwise rarely known form of female genital mutilation is common in Cameroon. The growth of breasts in girls should be delayed there. Their breasts are violently "ironed" with hot stones.

Victim tells of the torments In Cameroon in West Africa, a largely unknown, painful and very serious form of genital mutilation is widespread: “chest ironing”. As 31-year-old Raissa Nana reports, her mother had started the extremely painful procedure when the girl showed the first signs of puberty: “I was 11 years old when my mother started massaging my chest with hot stones . "The Cameroonian remembers:" Every evening we went into the kitchen and stones were thrown into boiling water and then pressed onto my chest several times. "Even today she gets angry when she says:" It was so hot that I was screamed and my aunts had to hold me. "

Mothers who do violence to their daughters The fate of Raissa Nana is shared by numerous girls in countries such as Togo, Guinea, Nigeria and Chad. But this is the most common form of violence against girls in Cameroon. 6,000 of them are affected by "chest ironing" there. The anthropologist and employee of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Flavien Ndonko, explains why this mutilation occurs: “The mothers do not want their daughters to be sexually active at an early age, to become pregnant and then leave school . "He continues:" You don't seem to understand how traumatic breast-ironing is. It is a very painful procedure. "

Twelve percent of the female population affected Various methods are used for mutilation. For example, hot millstones are pressed firmly onto the girl's breasts and moved back and forth. Or press bandages, for example made of hot towels, are placed around the chest together with heated stones. At least twelve percent of the female population of Cameroon is affected, according to a new GIZ study. Experts interviewed around 6,000 girls and women between the ages of 10 and 82. It was said that nationwide awareness campaigns had had an impact and therefore the numbers would decrease. In 2006 GIZ empirically examined breast ironing for the first time and at that time 24 percent of all girls were affected.

Sexual violence widespread in Cameroon According to a 2011 government study from Cameroon, a quarter of all girls get pregnant before the age of 16. Therefore, they were immediately excluded from school until 2009. In the meantime, expectant mothers can now take part in lessons until shortly before the birth. The Ministry of Education had decided this to get the chest ironing under control. Sexual violence is widespread in Cameroon. This would rape four percent of all girls and women. Mothers therefore often excuse breast-ironing by pointing out that this will save their daughters from sexually abusing them. Raissa's mother Emilienne also justifies her actions: "The tradition is passed on from the mothers to the daughters, I have lived through them myself."

Ten percent of all breast cancer cases due to breast ironing The consequences of breast ironing are serious for the victims. Ten percent of all cases of breast cancer in Cameroon are said to be the result. In addition, normal breastfeeding is hardly possible later. "In addition, the girls get cysts, infections or asymmetrical breasts that traumatize them and can lead to psychological problems and sexual frustration," said Sarah Ako, spokeswoman for the Cameroonian aid organization RENATA. Together with the responsible authorities in the country, the NGO carries out educational campaigns against the practice of mutilation and advocates the use of contraceptives and condoms in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Their slogan is: "Don't iron breasts, they are a gift from God."

Protect future generations from violence The effects of flat breasts, which the mothers hoped for, sexual abstinence, usually fail to materialize anyway. Raissa also says: “It didn't protect me from expecting a child at 16. I had to drop out of school. ”And further:“ Dozens of other girls I know were pregnant at 17, too. ”Many of the victims work for RENATA today to help protect future generations from this form of violence against women. "I hope that no girl ever has to endure such pain," said Jeanne Bella, who had to suffer this form of mutilation at the age of ten. "I would never do this to my children and I work for RENATA today so that this phenomenon is finally over has an end. "(ad)

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