in another post, i mentioned meeting with the women from the Black Women's Blueprint. at this event, someone else mentioned breast ironing, and i got a little more info on it.
apparently, young girls in Cameroon are beginning puberty and developing breasts earlier than they have in the past. the rate of sexual assault among young girls is high (is high in most all countries, even the United States), and their mothers do this in order to stop or hold off sexual assault.
now, if you look at the comments from the blog, you'll see the type of foolishness i was referring to, but you'll also see the typical western response to this problem ("those people are just crazy"). but issues like this are never that simplistic.
one of the leaders of the Black Women's Blueprint group mentioned that this is a practice that happens in the Caribbean as well as countries in Africa and is done not only to ward off unwanted sexual advances, but also to keep a girl in school. in some of these parts of the world where this is practiced, girls may stop going to school once they hit puberty, and this is done to prolong the education. and while these journalists and health organizations do a good job of discussing the process of breast ironing, actually filming girls' breasts being ironed and tell the perspective of the mothers, it does not highlight the bigger issue here. and that is sexual assault.
someone at the group meeting where this was discussed also mentioned that the age at which these girls are getting their breasts ironed do align with the age most girls get sexually assaulted, not just in Cameroon, but even in the United States. this article goes in depth about different perspectives concerning the practice and the criticisms. it's easy to point the blame at the mothers and female relatives that are doing the actual breast ironing, but i think it should be pointed at society at large, ours included. the Cameroonians as well as our and many other societies put the responsibility on the female sex as opposed to encouraging males to control themselves (which is more psychological than physical arousal, considering rape is more about control/power than it is about sexual pleasure). we can see that in birth control pills being marketed to almost exclusively women and the new Rape-Axe that came out in South Africa.
why are they/we not discussing the rates of sexual assault, the laws in place (or lack thereof) to deter these types of assaults, or the types of protection offered to women that have been sexually assaulted? there are plenty of people looking to stop the practice of breast ironing, even petitions happening online now, but where is the discussion to urge their government to protect these girls once their breasts do fully develop, their hips spread, and they begin to be attacked?
here are some statistics on sexual assault in Cameroon.
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