MP Jake Berry has called for breast ironing to be made a specific criminal offence in the UK. Breast ironing is a practice where adolescent girls have red-hot stones or spatulas pressed on to their breasts, to stop them developing.
The ritual, which was originally carried out in parts of Africa, aims to make women less attractive to the opposite sex so that they focus on school work. It is believed that around 1,000 girls have been subjected to it in the UK.
However Mr. Berry, the Conservative MP for Lancashire constituency Rossendale and Darwen, insists that 15% of British police forces have no concept of the ritual while two thirds such services would welcome guidance.
In a speech to the Commons he said that there is “currently no standalone crime of breast ironing in the UK”. He also added “Police and prosecutors have to rely on the existing pool of criminal offences that are available to them. I believe that, as with female genital mutilation, that is not an adequate protection for young women and girls in our country”.
A girl’s mother almost always undertakes the process in the privacy of her own home. One woman, who has been given the name Lara, revealed to Sky News that she was subjected to mutilation when she reached adolescence.
She remarked “They put the spatula on the fire and then they press it on the breast, and yes it hurts. Then it goes weak, its like melting, fat melting and you can feel the breast going back… one of my breasts is bigger than the other one”.
Breast ironing is a furtive and savage form of mutilation that sees children burnt whilst having bands tied tightly around their chests. Experts maintain that the ritual can cause cysts, abscesses and even breast cancer.
The founder of Came Women and Girls Development Organisation Geraldine Yenwo has stated, “A lot of them have inverted nipples, they’re not able to breast feed their children. Emotionally and psychologically, your self-esteem is very badly affected. Physically, some of them have one large and one flattened breast”.