Young girls in many countries around the world suffer greatly each year from abuse of one form or another. What is ironic is that in many instances adults believe that what they do is in the best interest of the girls.
There is Female Genital mutilation; a barbaric act of which for most part entail partial of full removal of a woman’s clitoris. Sex for such a woman, instead of being an expression of love between two people can become a source of pain which she has to endure. The procedure done without anesthetic and often times without using sterile instruments may result in fatal hemorrhaging or the risks of serious infections. This procedure does not benefit women in any way. It is done to suppress a girl’s sexual feelings, to prevent her from being promiscuous, maintain her virginity until marriage and uphold the family honor. Upholding the family honor is more important than the health and happiness of girls in countries that practices female genital mutilation.
In some countries there is forced child marriages which basically sentences young girls to a life of misery. Most live their life in poverty. They are denied educational opportunities, and suffer from poor health, sexual and other forms of abuse. Most of them spend their lives trapped in loveless marriages with men who are often strangers.
Parents say they do it to protect the girls. Her husband will protect her from getting raped and he will take care of her. If this is so, why are there so many horror stories? The man who they feel will protect, often is the one who her rapist. She is made to work like a hired help and suffers abuse not only at the hands of her husband but from her in-laws as well. Although parents are aware of what is happening they continue to marry off their underage daughters because it is never about what the girls want for their lives. Their happiness is not taken into consideration. It is about culture and traditions and maintaining the family honor.
What is very worrisome is the fact that the list of abuses against girls and women get longer the deeper you delve. In the Cameroon their form of abuse is breast ironing. This particular form of abuse is shrouded in secrecy, not many want to talk about it, but behind closed doors Cameroon girls are suffering torture at the hands of their own mothers. Breast ironing is done to stop the development of breasts and delay any sign that a girl is developing into an adult.
Cameroon mothers say they iron their daughters breast to protect them from sexual harassment and rape, and to prevent early pregnancy that would tarnish the family name.. They also want their daughters to pursue an education rather than be forced into an early marriage.
They use objects such as grinding stones, coconut shells, leaves, ladles, spatulas and hammers heated over burning coal. The hot object is used to press and massage the breasts to flatten them to stop their development. This they feel will make the girls less attractive to boys and men.
Breast ironing is extremely painful and can cause tissue damage. There are no medical studies on its effects but medical experts warn that it might contribute towards breast cancer and perhaps interfere with breast-feeding later. Other possible side effects include breast infections, the formation of abscesses and malformed breasts. It can lead to permanent damage to the milk ducts and even complete disappearance of one or both breasts. The girls end up with marks, wrinkles and black spots on their breasts.
Breast ironing violates the fundamental rights of girls and women – the right to health, physical integrity and freedom from torture. It does not prevent premarital pregnancy which is on the rise, accounting for 30% of pregnancies according to local health workers. This is due to a lack of sex education. The sex talk and not torture will be more beneficial to Cameroon girls.