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Old 07-07-2006, 11:50 AM   #1
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First Circumcision, Now Breast Ironing

'Breast ironing' to stunt girls' growth widespread

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (Reuters) -- Worried that her daughters' budding breasts would expose them to the risk of sexual harassment and even rape, their mother Philomene Moungang started 'ironing' the girls' bosoms with a heated stone.

"I did it to my two girls when they were eight years old. I would take the grinding stone, heat it in the fire and press it hard on the breasts," Moungang said.

"They cried and said it was painful. But I explained that it was for their own good."

"Breast ironing" -- the use of hard or heated objects or other substances to try to stunt breast growth in girls -- is a traditional practice in West Africa, experts say.

A new survey has revealed it is shockingly widespread in Cameroon, where one in four teenagers are subjected to the traumatic process by relatives, often hoping to lessen their sexual attractiveness.

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Old 07-07-2006, 11:56 AM   #2
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I've never heard of that, horrible

Great attitude, that women should do something about their breasts so that men don't rape or sexually harass them. And that sexual attractiveness has anything to do with either one of those. Talk about blaming the victim I'm surprised that some people in the US who have that same attitude don't try that.

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Old 07-07-2006, 12:19 PM   #3
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Wow, that's awful.
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Old 07-07-2006, 12:48 PM   #4
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Old 07-07-2006, 01:20 PM   #5
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Old 07-07-2006, 01:29 PM   #6
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I wonder of fear of sexual assault is really the case. It sounds more like a fear or hatred for female sexuality and the female body.
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Old 07-07-2006, 02:42 PM   #7
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How widespread a problem is rape of girls in Cameroon? Does anyone know? It wouldn't shock me if "rape" in this case is more or less a euphemism for consensual premarital sex; on the other hand, I wouldn't want to assume that, as I really know nothing about the country. If rape of young girls really is a common social problem, then that would need to be addressed in tandem with discouraging the practice. If the custom is practiced because parents genuinely see it as a response to a perceived common threat, then in order to get them to stop it you will need to show them that either A) they are wrong that this is a major threat or that B) here are some more effective ways we can deal with that situation. Most likely, if rape really is a widespread problem, the solution is not going to be as simple as "Well that's what the police and the courts are for"--those institutions may well already have proven themselves ineffectual at addressing it. "No means no" talks for boys (where? in school? are that many of them in school?) may not address where it's coming from either. Of course, if rape of girls is not really that widespread of a problem and this is really more about premarital sex (are unplanned teen pregnancies not resulting from rape a common problem?) then the situation is different and education, contraception, etc. might be viable strategies. But you would need to understand the social terrain first. Simply recoiling in revulsion at the practice itself and berating people for following it is unlikely to achieve much of anything.

Like "female circumcision" it is clearly not a religion-based practice, as the article states that multiple religious groups follow it.
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Old 07-07-2006, 10:25 PM   #8
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"The more you know the less you believe"

Education is a huge factor in this issue but even with the best, furthest reaching programs there will always be those factions of the population who: a) refuse to listen, or b) simply ignore the consequential facts.

Whether a primitive tribe in the deepest parts of the African jungles, the villages of Afghanistan, or in a highly sophisticated city such as Paris, it would be nice to finally see a day when men start holding themselves responsible for their own actions and stop making scapegoats and mutilated examples out of the women in their societies.
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Old 07-08-2006, 07:59 AM   #9
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The first step is to set an example. The example we can set, as Americans, is to openly discourage male circumcision as medical routine. Of course, it is not the same as FGM or "breast ironing," but African cultures do and have used the fact that North America still engages in some form of circumcision commonly as a way to justify their own mutilation customs.

Once we demonstrate that, I think we can then claim the moral high ground in the minds of some Africans and show that traditions can indeed be changed.

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Old 07-08-2006, 11:16 AM   #10
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Old 07-08-2006, 02:36 PM   #11
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Except male circumcision is actually heathly - is it not???
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Old 07-08-2006, 03:09 PM   #12
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Originally posted by Harry Vest
Except male circumcision is actually heathly - is it not???
No, unless you perceive that reduced sexual function is "healthy," because circumcision keratinizes the exposed glans ("head"), making it less sensitive and destroys nerve functions that are present in the foreskin. This becomes more apparent as men age, as it has more time to dry out.

Laziness, in terms of cleanliness, or localized cultural perceptions that it looks "gross" should not be factored into health concerns. There are a minority that have health concerns worthy of circumcision; but that should not be an excuse for mass mutilation, just as we would not routinely remove breasts in everyone, because some people get breast cancer.

Africans are aware of our contraditory nature, because Western anthropologists have been asked these kinds of questions, and the fact that they are aware that North Americans engage in routine male circumcision means that Africans will routinely dismiss concerns against FGM or "breast ironing" as ethnocentric gestures. We must set the example of ending this unnecessary tradition, if we expect Africans to end their own unnecessary traditions.

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Old 07-08-2006, 07:02 PM   #13
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Oh god. That's really horrible.
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Old 07-09-2006, 12:12 AM   #14
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While circumcision might be a "silly custom" in the U.S., I don't think it can be compared to the genital mutilation and breast ironing, because I believe these practices are rooted in misogynistic thinking. These practices are about the hatred of women, and the fear and suppression of female sexuality.

Male circumcision is not about fear and hatred of men or male sexuality or the penis, right? I mean, is it really that big deal? Isn't it not much different from getting piercing or a tattoo--something that means something to the people who do it, but is essentially harmless.

As to reduced sexual function, to be honest, I hadn't noticed. But who knows, maybe I'd be on the "Who got lucky thread" two and three times a day if my parents had made a different decision. Dang those parents!!!
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Old 07-09-2006, 10:15 AM   #15
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Originally posted by maycocksean
Male circumcision is not about fear and hatred of men or male sexuality or the penis, right? I mean, is it really that big deal? Isn't it not much different from getting piercing or a tattoo--something that means something to the people who do it, but is essentially harmless.
The "slash-and-burn" circumcision techniques that we use today originated from 19th century American Protestants who were obsessed with masturbation. They were so obsessed with it that they believed that removing the foreskin completely would prevent children from doing it. Prior to the 19th century, "circumcision," even in Biblical times, referred to removing only a small portion of the end of the foreskin, so as to have a small portion of the tip exposed.

It was their idea from the start to have less sensitivity, and, yes, it was about hatred of male sexuality. If adults wish to be circumcised, then so be it. But I do not think it would be ethical to give tattoos to infants, so I don't see what is ethical about mutilating infants' penises without their consent.


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