It is aimed at warding off sexual harassment and is carried out by hard or heated objects pressed against the developing breasts in teenaged girls. "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.
A survey by the agency on 5,000 girls and women aged between 10 and 82 years found that an estimated 4 million women were a victim to this primitive practice in Cameroon and other countries.
"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."
But the practice is associated with pain, abscesses, infections and even breast cancer. The practice is though to benefit young girls.