A brutal cultural practice that sees mothers batter their own daughters’ breasts to stop them developing is taking place in Britain, campaigners say.
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The barbaric ritual of “breast-ironing” is commonplace in parts of Africa, but those at the frontline of child protection say it is also happening in African communities in the UK.
It involves pounding the breasts as soon as they begin to develop with objects that have been heated over hot coals. Some women use rocks, others hammers and spatulas.
The idea is that by removing their breast tissue, youngsters will be less sexually attractive and less likely to become pregnant at a young age, preventing them bringing shame on their families.
Sadly it is mostly carried out by the girls’ own mothers, who believe it is in their best interests.
MP Jake Berry was so shocked when he discovered the practice that he tabled a parliamentary debate on it, which took place earlier this week.
He told the Commons: “The words ‘culture’, ‘tradition’ or ‘religion’ might come up when trying to explain this absurdly harmful practice, but as in the case of FGM , these words are only thinly veiled excuses for a ritualised form of child abuse.”
His research has shown that 15 per cent of UK police forces have never even heard of the procedure while four in 10 wanted more advice on how to tackle it.
Mr Berry said he wanted breast ironing to become a criminal offence in its own right.
No-one yet knows how widespread it is because no official figures are kept and many victims keep completely silent.
He said: “This hidden abuse is happening here in Britain and we have to seek out the abusers and push for prosecution.
"The Government needs to work across departments and with GPs and hospitals, including extending mandatory reporting, to shine a light on it.
“Not one person has ever been convicted of this crime in the UK. The lack of prosecutions partly stem from a fear by the victim of reporting a family member.”
Margaret Nyuydzewira, founder of the CAME Women and Girls Development Organisation, a UK charity campaigning on behalf of victims, told The New Day that schools, the police and social services needed to help bring perpetrators before the courts.
She said: “Yes, it is happening in the UK. We have not done any studies to discover the prevalence at the moment, but we know it is happening through members of our community.
“It is brutal. There is a lot of trauma. Mothers are doing it with good intentions, to protect their daughters from sexual harassment, but it does not fit with British values.
“Women need to understand that what they are doing is harmful to their children and it may have a long-term impact.
“I cannot walk alone. We need the government’s support. We need to spread the word and talk to others.”
Cameroonian Marie Laure Jatsa, who has researched her country’s tradition for more than a decade, has interviewed 6,000 women to understand the phenomenon.
She said: “Some parents believe that Europe should not get involved in their tradition. It’s ridiculous they live here and still have those barbaric customs.
“What’s incredible is that it is a woman doing it to another woman. Mothers truly believe that this is going to help their daughters to avoid an early pregnancy.”
“The idea is that mothers are worried their children are developing at a faster rate.
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