War Against "Womankind"And Teenage Sex In Cameroon!
Finally I have been able to complete this draft.I know with your corrections and contributions the final piece will be better.Thank you for always joining your voices.
No one seems to be aware but it is real, it is happening! In the privacy of homes, behind closed kitchen and bedroom doors, pubescent girls in Cameroon are being tortured by their own mothers. Using objects like grinding stones, mortar pestles, coconut shells or harmers that have been heated over coal, mothers massage their daughters developing breasts to destroy any indication of emerging womanhood. War has been waged against”womankind”, genitals are mutilated, breasts flattened, bodies battered, hair cut off for rituals, minds deprived of education, no recompense for hard labor that lasts from dawn to dusk in fields and backyards, working the most, yet benefiting the least. The hands that rock the cradle that rules the world are described by many as a “necessary evil”. The breast, feminine symbol and the pride of womanhood has become a target.The urge to protect their daughters from rape and premarital pregnancy has pushed mothers in Cameroon to deform the breasts of their daughters.
Subtler ways of breast ironing involve forcing teenage girls to wear tight clothing or stretchy fabrics known as breast bands on their breasts to flatten them. Some are forced to wear very strong breast wears for 24 hours a day to control the size of already developed breasts. 1out of every 4 girls in Cameroon is a victim of breast ironing. The damaging effects of this form of body mutilation by far outweigh the reason behind the practice. Fertilized by the culture of silence, breast ironing has made it right up to this age of scientific advancement because many women have seen the benefits of educating their girl children as such are ready to do anything to prevent them from teenage pregnancy and early marriage.
The practice is more prevalent in the Christian and animist South of Cameroon (20-50%) than in the North where only 10%of girls are affected. In Cameroon.3.8million girls are faced with the danger of Breast Ironing. This agonizing form of mutilation not only has negative health effects on the girls, but has proven to be futile when it comes to deterring teenage sexual activity since most of the girls end up being disfigured with teenage pregnancies.
Breast ironing can be a source of excruciating pains and violates a young girl’s physical integrity. A 25 year victim says she feels embarrassed each time she is naked amongst her peers because her breast tissues are worn out like that of an old woman. “The thing is very much alive everywhere, yet no one talks about it because it is done behind closed doors and kept as secret between mothers and daughters, not even the fathers are usually aware of these acts’’,she says. Another victim of Breast Ironing now an English teacher says she grew up with a feeling of guilt, feeling bad about the shooting of her breasts which happened as early as when she was 10.”Mum tried to make me feel loved but it never worked because I found her too cruel for my liking each time she began warming the pestle and stone to press my breasts. Despite the ironing, pressing and massaging with hot kitchen utensils my breasts refused to flatten, making me an object of scorn amongst my mates whose chests were still flat”.
Medical experts say the developing tissues in the breasts are expanded and destroyed by heat during the ironing. Breast ironing exposes girls to numerous health problems such as abscesses, cysts, itching, and discharge of milk, permanent damage to milk ducts, infection, and dissymmetry of the breasts, cancer, breast infections, severe fever, tissue damage and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts. Victims end up with marks, wrinkles and black spots on their breast .Another victim says she developed breast cancer as a result of the mutilation and ended up loosing one of her breasts in a surgery. She says her mother initially saw the cancer as a spell and resorted to more intense ironing sessions using a knife which had been heated on fire to press them.
Like female genital mutilation, breast ironing violates the fundamental rights of women and young girls – the right to health, physical integrity; and freedom from torture. The rate of premarital pregnancy is on the rise in Cameroon (30%) due to lack of sexual education; many mothers have preferred to destroy or make their daughters’ breasts less attractive to males than to face the embarrassment of talking sex with their girls. Due to improved dietary habits in the country, girls are beginning to hit puberty as early as 9, and are therefore subject to the practice around the same age. Worried and otherwise well intentioned mothers have equally intensified the war against teenage sex by ironing, massaging and pounding their breast to flatten them.” So long as it will not kill the girl, I will prefer the breast to be deformed and have her go through her education without an unwanted pregnancy or the deadly HIV virus’’ states one of the mothers .Most of the mothers say their intent is not to inflict pain on their daughters but to protect them from the taboo of teenage pregnancy. Where the mothers cannot stand the sight of their daughters in pain, there are often local women who serve as professional breast flatteners who exchange their services for palm oil and wood.
As aforementioned this discrete practice which occurs in the secrecy of bedrooms and closed kitchen doors can hardly be declared completely eradicated, since it is difficult to state with complete confidence what goes on in the privacy of people `s homes. The effects of a recent nation wide campaign by a non governmental organization run by victims of the act are yet to be established. According to gender consultant Dr Mrs Awa Magdeline Shirri Halle, such a practice robs girls of the much needed self confidence they need to assert themselves in society later on in life. It is therefore a dual enemy to women’s emancipation. It not only violates the rights of women by inflicting pain but prevents them from accepting their bodies as normal human beings. “Young girls should rather be taught to love, cherish and protect their bodies from any external harm including harm done by their mothers”, she says.
These pubescent girls are children and ought to benefit from children’s rights. Cameroon signed the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which was put in place in September 1990. According to article 19 of the convention,
"States parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse while in the care of parents(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child."
Going by the terms of this convention which was ratified in Cameroon in 1993, government has a legal responsibility to protect these girls from the injury and abuse brought about by breast ironing.
The perpetrators of this act are not in hiding, they can be gotten at any time but nothing is ever done to them. Victims of breast ironing are only protected by the law if it is medically proven that the breast has been damaged and the case is reported within a few months. Unfortunately no girl has ever been bold enough to report her mother to a court of law. Blessing Nabila says she finds no use of reporting such a matter to court because matters concerning women’s rights are often handled with a lot of nonchalance in Cameroonian courts except handled by some female lawyers who are devoted to the course . Going by the Preamble of the country’s Constitution, “human beings, without distinction of race, religion, belief, possess inalienable and sacred rights,” and Article 1(2) calls for equality of all citizens before the law. Ironically, the unequal status of women and girls in Cameroon is portrayed in all spheres of life, and discriminatory administrative policies, practices, laws, cultural beliefs and attitudes continue perturb the enjoyment of human rights by women.
The more educated and exposed a woman is the less likely she is to be be convinced that such a brutal act can actually be a solution to teenage sex.Educated women understand the need for sex education and will rather counsel their girl children about their sexuality rather than mutilate their bodies. Likewise if young girls are encouraged to break the silence by exposing the secret, it will be difficult for this culture to thrive. It is possible to find a woman whose vagina is mutilated at the age of 9, breast ironed at the age of 10, drops out of school at the age of 12, due to psychological trauma from these practices, forced into marriage at the age of 15, mother of six at age 23, widowed at 30 and has to undergo dehumanizing widowhood rituals, such a woman will go through life regretting why she was born a woman and will never rejoice at the birth of a female in her family thus giving victory to the war against “womankind”. It is however possible to make women love and protect their bodies through counseling and a good education. Inflicting pain on girl children through breast ironing might instead force them to seek love away from the home and by so doing they could fall prey to the much avoided premarital sex. Any community which refuses to loose its women from the bonds of noxious cultural practices bars the way to development. The hand writing on the wall is clear, nations which have taken the forefront in women’s emancipation are today enjoying the bliss of feminine initiative.God`s finger is pointing with wrath against nations and tribes which continue to suppress the voices of women. In his infinite wisdom he created women with a lot of potentials; the world will be a better place if these potentials were developed through sound education and opportunities.