Hoping to make girls less attractive to men Cameroonians practice flat breasts

His project explores this oppressive and oppressive practice in Cameroon against innocent girls called “breast ironing”, a procedure that focuses on crushing the breasts of girls as soon as they start to grow. This practice is carried out against girls at the hands of their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, or aunts, using some purposes Household, kitchen utensils, or stones.

This heinous act affects all aspects of the life of the girl who finds herself a victim of it and leaves a surgeon that does not heal easily at the physical or psychological level, or even that affects the identity of the girl herself. The practitioners of this act believe that if a girl appears attractive to men, she will inevitably be raped, and will end up pregnant, and will never complete her studies.

فتاة صغيرة يتم تضميد صدرها بنية تسطيحه حتى لا ينمو لديها ثديان. صورة: Vice France
practice in Cameroon against innocent girls called “breast ironing”
Image: Vice France

Photographer (Gildas Barry) spoke in detail about his work in an interview with Vice France, and about this “distorted” tradition that is followed in Cameroon. From the dialogue we excerpt for you:

You were previously a food photographer, what made you want to turn your center of attention and take pictures like this?

(Gildas Barry): “I wanted to work on something more personal, and I also found myself more interested in the problems surrounding femininity.

I was very surprised to know that the tradition of breast ironing was not documented as required, and after doing some research, I discovered that a journalist named (Kirk Pajama) was making a documentary tape on the subject, so I contacted him and a few months later, we traveled to Cameroon together.

Can you explain this practice?

“The core idea behind it is that if you do not develop breasts, men will not show interest in you, and mothers practice them in the hope of preventing their daughters from becoming pregnant. Instead, they will be able to complete their studies. Very young age. ”

صورة ملعقة خشبية كانت تستعمل في كي الأثداء
practice in Cameroon against innocent girls called “breast ironing”
Image: Vice France

How is this practice taking place?

“The procedure breast ironing usually begins when the girl is eight or nine years old, and her family wraps her chest with tight elastic bandages, and they tighten the dressing at night and sometimes during the day as well.

Another technique revolves around massaging the breast ironing with hot tools. They believe that heating these tools and then applying pressure on the breasts causes the fat inside to melt, which is completely insane.

They use a wide variety of tools, including pestles, large spoons, wooden sticks, and stones, and most of these tools belong to either the victims’ mothers or their grandmothers.

We see that all the women in your photos are topless, how did you succeed in convincing them of that?

“It was not easy, it was very difficult. During our first meeting with RENATA, the non-profit women’s rights organization that helped us, one of the victims immediately told us that it was completely impossible. You can either photograph our faces or our chests, but Not all of our chests and faces together, the victims will never agree to this matter. ”But I told them that if I could not do it in this way, these pictures that I would take would not have any benefit, because a woman wearing her clothes would not have the same effect that a victim would have when she was naked the chest.

We had lengthy discussions about that, and then the victims finally agreed to photograph topless with their faces shown, they understood very well what I was going to do, and they also understood very well that my point was not sexual, but rather was aimed at spreading awareness and fighting this horrible practice. ”

You wanted them to be topless from the start, right?

“Yes, of course, otherwise there will be no similar confrontation with the crowd. The breasts have a strong influence on people.”

What kind of relationship do these victims have with their bodies?

“They struggle with it daily, they cannot wear a bathing suit, so they never go to the beach, and it is difficult for them to undress in front of their best friends – that is, if they make relationships in the first place -.

The physical impact of the terrible experience they underwent may disappear, but the psychological impact and psychological trauma do not disappear, and most of them do not want to touch their breasts ever again.

One of the victims, (Carol), tells her story, saying: “They tell you: ‘Don’t shout, this is for your own good.’ I didn’t have the courage to talk about the matter with my children, so three days ago my son asked me: ‘Mother, why Your breasts are very small? ‘And I replied that I did not know the reason, as I also have a six-year-old daughter, but I am not ready to talk about it, and I wish I could breastfeed a son of mine and become president in the future.’ ‘

You have titled your project “The Dream of Plastic Surgery”. Why?

“These women are eager to undergo plastic surgery, they want to collect enough money to pay for breast plastic surgery, and they also want to be able to wear beautiful clothes, go out in public and show their beauty, but at present, they prefer to hide, so the reality is more. Than terrible.

When I traveled there, I had a lot of preconfigured concepts in my mind: I thought I’d find victims with big scars on their bodies, but in the end, the psychological scars and trauma were what we talked a lot about, it filled me with strong feeling and great sadness. ”

Was there a story of a particular victim that particularly moved you?

“Each of those stories was a unique tragedy, even if their wounds were not visible, they were shattered from within.

One of these women suffered two things: she underwent the ironing process with a spoon and then with stones, she was raped and married against her will against her consent, and she gave birth to her first children when she was only fourteen years old.

In Cameroon, if you were not able to breastfeed your little one, things would get much worse for you, as there is a scarcity in the availability of infant formula or their own feeding bottles, and if the girl was not able to breastfeed, some types of ants called “safari ants” were used for They bite at the level of the breast in an attempt to stimulate the production of milk inside it; It’s a really terrible story. ”

Stories of some victims:

(Carol B) 28 years: “When my breasts started growing, people in my house started talking about it, as well as my neighbors, my mother’s friends and girlfriends, and the elders of our village. There was a lot of talk about me and my breasts until it made me feel ashamed and some shame about all that much talk they made me subject to, and in the end, my mother decided to iron my breasts, and she said to me: ‘If we don’t cry them, they will attract men, and we We know very well that men mean pregnancy. ”She added,“ We ​​need to eliminate these breasts. ”

I used a hot stone on my right breast, then the left one. This went on for several weeks. I suppose she was intending for me well. The breasts are what make a woman look beautiful, but today, my breasts are flaccid, she cannot even erect.

تستعمل كذلك بذور التوت في كي وتسطيح الأثداء، حيث تقوم النساء بتسخينها ثم فركها على الصدر.
practice in Cameroon against innocent girls called “breast ironing”
Image: Vice France

(Dorian) 19 years old: “I was only eight years old when my mom told me, ‘Take off your shirt, have you already had breasts? When a girl has her own age with breasts, men start staring at her and she becomes their interest.

I didn’t understand exactly what she was doing, as every day, sometimes three times a day, she cried my breasts with a hot tablespoon. She would just say: ‘This whole thing is for your personal benefit only’.

It was like a nightmare, and I also noticed that the more she massaged me, the larger my breasts grew, and when I realized the trick wasn’t really working, I used a stone, it was like hell, as it felt like my body was burning.

One of the guidance counselors, whom I was talking to about almost everything, tried to talk to my mother about it and tried to get her to stop what she was doing, I was so happy that I thought it finally stopped, but she did it again, with hot fruit seeds this time.

She rubbed my chest over and over again, to the point that the day came when I was satisfied with it, so I packed my things and moved to my aunt’s house right away; Sometimes I try to understand why my mother does, and it hurts a lot when I look at myself in the mirror. ”

(Agnes), thirty-two years old: “My breasts finally started to grow when I was eighteen years old, and before that boy was not attracted to my body, I really felt bad about it, as my grandmother started to destroy my breasts when I was 12 years old.

I was trying to escape from her every morning, but she caught me every time, the other children were going to school, while I was staying at home to have my chest massaged with a hot stone. My grandmother had massages twice a day for an entire year.

For a woman to have breasts is completely normal, it is human, and when I did not have breasts, I felt like a boy rather than a girl. ”

(Cathy), 27, “The pistils always reminded me of the pains of my childhood. The same piece of rock that people used to crush spices was used to crush the beauty of womenand the complexity of teenage girls.

My breasts began to grow when I was ten years old, and my family thought massage was the ideal solution for that, so I conceived my first child when I was sixteen years old, but my breasts turned black after childbirth, and a dark fluid came out every time I tried. Breastfeed my baby.

I suffer great mental pain every time I remember that, and therefore I decided to forget about it and fight violence against women. ”

(Cindy) 14 years: “Every morning, before going to school, my mom makes me lift my tops to make sure I haven’t removed the tightening pads on my breasts.

It’s been 2 years now and she’s still checking her daily, it’s just a shame to me, that I want her to stop.

When I grow up, I would like to become a lawyer or become a piano player, I hope that wearing these bandages will help me continue my studies. ”

ضمادات مطاطية تستعمل لكبح نمو الثديين لدى الفتيات.
practice in Cameroon against innocent girls called “breast ironing”
Image: Vice France
نمل السافاري الذي تستعمل لسعاته في تحفيز إفراز الحليب لدى الأمهات المرضعات.
practice in Cameroon against innocent girls called “breast ironing”
Image: Vice France

(Emmanuel) 23 years old: “My mother was the cause of my suffering, so I had to obey every time she asked me, even if I ran away, she would hold me right away, and when I was going to bed she would hold me and start massaging my breasts, and when I washed she was She held me and massaged me as well, she would have found a way no matter what.

No matter how much I cried and cried, there was nothing to discourage her from what she was doing, it felt as if she was sticking something in my chest.

She is now dead, and I did not yet understand her way of thinking, nor did I understand whether she was trying to help or punish me.

My cousin raped me when I was only thirteen years old and ended up having a baby with him, so I needed to produce milk but I didn’t have breasts, we tried to use safari ants – when these ants sting you – your breasts swell, which is thought to stimulate milk production – I had three kids Later, despite my extensive use of safari ants, I was unable to breastfeed any of them. ”

(Gayal) 26 years old: “During the night, my mother used to make me wear a tight rubber bandage around my chest, and during the day she messaged me with a hot big spoon, pestle, stick, or room. All of the above was very painful.

I asked her to stop what she was doing which she eventually succumbed to, but after all these ironing operations, my breasts started to grow very, very quickly, until it made me feel ashamed and ashamed, I wanted to hide them, as people on the street were opposing me in ways Disgraceful because of my large breasts.

After I turned 20, my breasts began to loosen up, as if I were in my 50s, currently unable to undress in front of people, and sometimes I would stay on my shirt while I had sex with my boyfriend. I really hate my mother. ”

صورة ضمادة مطاطية منزلية الصنع.
practice in Cameroon against innocent girls called “breast ironing”
Image: Vice France

Nine-year-old Manuela: “Sometimes, I can’t even breathe because the bandage is so tight and tight, it really scares me, I’ve been forced to wear it for a whole year, it’s so hot, so I’ve got spots everywhere underneath it. My mother has this. ”

صورة مدقة
practice in Cameroon against innocent girls called “breast ironing”
Image: Vice France

(List) 34 years old: “My mother told me that my breasts would attract men to me, so she took me to a traditional healer. People say you are a prostitute. ”I passed out from the pain, it took me long days to recover.”

صخرة ساحقة
practice in Cameroon against innocent girls called “breast ironing”
Image: Vice France
ما يسمى بـ”معالجة“
practice in Cameroon against innocent girls called “breast ironing”
Image: Vice France


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