Stop Abuse of Women

Stop Breast Ironing

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.

Stop Abuse of Women

Say No to Child Brides

Child Brides in Niger

She is just eleven years old, she has yet to get her first period and already she is  a wife.  Adulthood is forced upon her.  She is not prepared for this physically, mentally or emotionally.  Her hopes and dreams of staying in school and getting an education is shattered.  Her dreams does not matter nor does her happiness.  Her parents have received a dowry and now she is married to a man older than her father.  Still a child, afraid and confused knowing nothing about sex or marriage and the duties of a wife, she will be forced to have sexual intercourse with a grown man.  She will suffer the agony of having her childhood stolen from her and suffer even more through pregnancy and childbirth and there is a possibility that she will die giving birth.
Stripped of her freedom she lives at the mercy of her husband and in-laws.  She is often treated like a domestic slave, ill treated by her in-laws and raped by her husband if she resist his advances for sex.  Her tears goes unnoticed, her eyes mirrors her pain.  For her there is little hope, she has nothing to smile about, all she can do is try and endure the life that has been forced upon her.  All of this seems like something from a movie, but it is not, it is real.  It is the daily life of child brides around the world.  In cultures of ignorance and poverty the children suffers.  One such place is Niger
Niger has one of the highest rate of child marriages in the world; 75 percent of girls are married before the age eighteen and many are subjected to a life of domestic and sexual slavery.  In Niger the  problem is not just the fact that there are child brides but that some of these brides are in fact sold into slavery. ‘Wahaya’ is the term used for girls and women who are sold as fifth wives to men.   In Niger men are allowed to have four legal wives and any number of fifth wives.
For these girls and women who are bought as fifth wives, no marriage ceremony takes place and girls do not benefit from any of the legal rights and protection that legal wives have.  They are treated as domestic and sexual slaves but are still referred to as wives.  They are used for free labor  and sex by their masters who are mainly dignitaries or wealthy men.
The legal age for the marriage of a girl in Niger is fifteen years old but as the country struggles with severe drought, failing crops and mass starvation girls as young as seven years old are being sold as child brides.  Parents have told activists that although they are unhappy about selling their daughters to men, the food situation have left them with no alternative.  Families are using child marriage as a survival strategy  to deal with food insecurity.  Marrying off a daughter means one less mouth to feed and the dowry she brings in goes to feed the others.  Fertility rate is high in Niger with the average household  having at least seven children.
The practice of child marriage comes with serious consequences.  It impacts negatively on the health of young girls.  Having children at such a young age, they are at risk for fistulas (vaginal or anal rupture) which can lead to incontinence.  Girls with fistulas are often abandoned by their husbands and scorned by society.  The majority of child brides are denied an education. Only 15 percent of adult women in Niger are literate and less than one-third of girls are enrolled in schools.
For places like Niger change will only come when families understand that educating their daughters instead of marrying them off will be more beneficial in bringing economic growth to this starving nation.  In a 2001 study UNICEF found that women with seven or more years of education marry an average four years later and have 2.2 fewer children than those with no education.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) wants the age of marriage to be changed to eighteen years .  It says this would give the girls longer time in school and give their bodies time to develop and allow them to reach adulthood.  This move will also help to curb the birth rate which is the highest in the world.