Perpetrators consider it a traditional measure to stop unwanted male attention
Global development is supported by Inna Lazareva.
A stone used for breast-ironing is placed on a fire. Photograph: Joe Penney/Reuters
An African practice of “ironing” a girl’s chest with a hot stone to delay breast formation is spreading in the UK, with anecdotal evidence of dozens of recent cases, a Guardian investigation has established.
Community workers in London, Yorkshire, Essex and the West Midlands have told the Guardian of cases in which pre-teen girls from the diaspora of several African countries are subjected to the painful, abusive and ultimately futile practice.
Margaret Nyuydzewira, head of the diaspora group the Came Women and Girls Development Organisation (Cawogido), estimated that at least 1,000 women and girls in the UK had been subjected to the intervention. There has been no systematic study or formal data collection exercise.
Margaret Nyuydzewira, who herself was subjected to the practice of breast-ironing as a young woman. Photograph: Inna Lazareva
Another community activist, who did not wish to be named, said she was aware of 15-20 recent cases in Croydon alone.
“It’s usually done in the UK, not abroad like female genital mutilation (FGM),” she said, describing a practice whereby mothers, aunties or grandmothers use a hot stone to massage across the breast repeatedly in order to “break the tissue” and slow its growth.