LSCBLocal Safeguarding Children Board Northamptonshire

Breast Ironing

What is breast ironing and how is it child abuse.

What is Breast Ironing?

Breast ironing or breast flattening, as it is often referred to—is believed to have originated in Cameroon but is also found in Nigeria, the Republic of Guinea, South Africa, Chad, Togo, Benin, Birmingham and London. It is the practice of pounding the developing breasts of young girls with objects heated over coals or on a stove, and it tends to be performed on girls from about the age of 10 up until the end of puberty. Hot stones, hammers and spatulas are used twice a day for several weeks or months to stop or delay, and in some cases permanently destroy, the natural development of the breast.

National Picture

Jake Berry carried out a FOI request across Police Forces and Children’s Services across the country, of those he received responses from it was clear more information was needed. 15% of Police Forces who responded had never heard of the practice.

Cases have been identified in Birmingham and London. It is reported by a UK based pressure group that no prosecution was made following the Birmingham case and it was considered to be part of a person’s culture rather than a crime.

Local Picture

Local Census information shows we have a small population in Northamptonshire from the communities affected by breast ironing. We know from a UN report that in 58% of cases the child’s mother carries out the act, much like FGM it remains a hidden crime, at the time of writing we currently have no records of this abuse occurring locally.

Further information on breast ironing can be found in this tri-x briefing

Last updated: 11 January 2024

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