UK. Here’s one of those surprises that immigration brings when all of a sudden an unknown and oppressive practice pops up. And then society have to find a way to fix it.

It was social workers in London, Yorkshire, Essex and the West Midlands who noticed that pre-teen girls from several African countries, pre-dominantly from West Africa, had been subjected to a practice where their breasts were “ironed” with hot stones. It’s mentioned that some use hammers! It’s done as a way to keep the girls looking young so they won’t suffer rape and sexual harrassment.

Female relatives gather once a week or once every two weeks to massage and pound the girls breasts with the stones repeatedly to “break the tissue” and slow its growth. This procedures can go on for several years and it’s abusive and painful. And it doesn’t stop the breasts from developing.

Margaret Nyuydzewira, head of the group the Came Women and Girls Development Organisation (Cawogido), went through this herself as a girl and she estimates that at least 1 000 women and girls in the UK have endured this. Another activist knows of 15-20 recent cases in Croydon alone and the UN says that 3,8 million girls are subjected to this worldwide. Voluntary sector organisations express that breast ironing is “an emerging issue” which “was not receiving enough attention”.

Medical experts and the victims regards this as child abuse and it could lead to physical and psychological scars, infections, inability to breastfeed perhaps due to inverted nipples, deformities and breast cancer. A nurse tells the news about how she had a 10-year old girl as a patient who had an infection that hadn’t healed for years because of the ironing. Others mention bruising and marks. Nyuydzewira says:

The British people are so polite in the sense that when they see something like that, they think of cultural sensitivities. But if it’s a cultural practice that is harming children … any harm that is done to a little girl, whether in public or in secrecy, that person should be held accountable.