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Breast Ironing

Breast Ironing

Breast Ironing, also known as “Breast Flattening”, is the process whereby young pubescent girls’ breasts are ironed, massaged and/or pounded down through the use of hard or heated objects in order for the breasts to disappear or delay the development of the breasts entirely. It is believed that by carrying out this act, young girls will be protected from harassment, rape, abduction and early forced marriage and therefore be kept in education.

Much like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Breast Ironing is a harmful cultural practice and is child abuse. Professionals working with children and young people must be able to identify the signs and symptoms of girls who are at risk of or have undergone breast ironing. Similarly to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), breast ironing is classified as physical abuse therefore professionals must follow the Bedford Borough Safeguarding Children Board’s Procedures.

Breast ironing is practiced in a number of African nations including Cameroon, Benin, Ivory Coast, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Togo, Zimbabwe and Guinea-Conakry and there is concern that African immigrants have brought breast ironing practice with them to the UK.

Definition

The United Nations (UN) states that Breast Ironing affects 3.8 million women around the world and has been identified as one of the five under-reported crimes relating to gender-based violence. The custom uses large stones, a hammer or spatulas that have been heated over scorching coals to compress the breast tissue of girls as young as 9 years old. Those who derive from richer families may opt to use an elastic belt to press the breasts so as to prevent them from growing.

The mutilation is a traditional practice from Cameroon designed to make teenage girls look less "womanly” and to deter unwanted male attention, pregnancy and rape. The practice is commonly performed by family members, 58% of the time by the mother. In many cases the abuser thinks they are doing something good for their daughter, by delaying the effects of puberty so that she can continue her education, rather than getting married.

Risks

The girl generally believes that the practice is being carried out for her own good and she will often remain silent. Young pubescent girls usually aged between 9 – 15 years old and from practising communities are most at risk of breast ironing.

Indicators

Breast ironing is a well-kept secret between the young girl and her mother. Often the father remains completely unaware. Some indicators that a girl has undergone breast ironing are as follows:

·         Unusual behaviour after an absence from school or college including depression, anxiety, aggression, withdrawn etc.;

·         Reluctance in undergoing normal medical examinations;

·         Some girls may ask for help, but may not be explicit about the problem due to embarrassment or fear;

·         Fear of changing for physical activities due to scars showing or bandages being visible.

Law

There is no specific law within the UK around Breast Ironing, however it is a form of physical abuse and if professionals are concerned a child may be at risk of or suffering significant harm they must refer to their Local Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures.

Health consequences

Due to the instruments which are used during the process of breast ironing, for example, spoon/broom, stones, pestle, breast band, leaves etc. combined with insufficient aftercare, young girls are exposed to significant health risks. Breast ironing is painful and violates a young girl’s physical integrity. It exposes girls to numerous health problems such as cancer, abscesses, itching, and discharge of milk, infection, dissymmetry of the breasts, cysts, breast infections, severe fever, tissue damage and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts.

Click here to read the Tri.x briefing in full or visit http://www.trixonline.co.uk/website/news/news_index.html

News

Disrespect NoBody campaign

The second phase of the Home Office Disrespect Nobody campaign will run from 2 February until the end of March 2017.

The aim of the Disrespect NoBody campaign is to prevent young people, both boys and girls aged 12 to 18 years old from becoming perpetrators and victims of abusive relationships.

For 2017 the focus of the campaign will be consent and sexting, which are both issues where many young people need more education and information. The campaign advertising directs young people to the website www.disrespectnobody.co.uk where they can get further information and signposts them to organisations who can provide support.

Please click on the link below to download the partner brief and campaign materials.
https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/assets.
smartcdn.co.uk/docs/Campaign_materials_for_
Disrespect_NoBody_2017.pdf.pdf

Click here to go to their website