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Breast Ironing/Flattening

Breast Ironing also known as “Breast Flattening” is the process whereby young pubescent girls breasts are ironed, massaged and/or pounded down using hard or heated objects in order for the breasts to disappear or delay the development of the breasts entirely.

The United Nations 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.

Although there is no specific law against breast ironing, it is physical abuse and should be treated a such. Therefore professionals must make a referral to Children’s Services (i.e. MASH in West Sussex and Brighton & Hove, or SPOA in East Sussex).

Read more about Breast Ironing in the Pan Sussex Procedures and on the National FGM Centre website.