July 09, 2006

Nip & Tuck Cameroon Style

Women in Cameroon iron their and their daughters breasts - 25% of them do, in fact - to avoid rape. This traditional practice has evolved over years in response to the equal (25%) rate of rape of women in Cameroon. More than 5,000 women, or roughly the number that receive breast augmentation in a good week in Los Angeles, receive the procedure, which sounds just horrific, involving "the use of hard or heated objects or other substances to try to stunt breast growth in girls ... [it] has many side-effects, including severe pain and abscesses, infections, breast cancer, and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts."

At least one anthropologist classes the practice alongside genital mutilation:

"Breast ironing is an age-old practice in Cameroon, as well as in many other countries in West and Central Africa, including Chad, Togo, Benin, Guinea-Conakry, just to name a few," said Flavien Ndonko, an anthropologist and local representative of German development agency GTZ, which sponsored the survey.

"If society has been silent about it up to now it is because, like other harmful practices done to women such as female genital mutilation, it was thought to be good for the girl," said Ndonko. "Even the victims themselves thought it was good for them."

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