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Body mutilation

Cameroonian victims of ‘breast ironing’ profiled in photography series

By WITW Staff on August 20, 2015

“Breast ironing” is a customary tradition in Cameroon in which the breasts of young women who are hitting puberty are massaged with hot spatulas, pestles or rocks in hopes of stunting breast development. The process leaves more than physical scars, according to photographer Gildas Paré, whose series Plastic Dreams features the stories of female victims alongside bare-breasted portraits, many of which show chests that are noticeably affected by the practice. “The idea is that if your breasts don’t grow, men won’t be attracted to you,” explained Paré. “Mothers do it in the hope that their daughters won’t get pregnant and instead be able to continue their education.” According to a 2011 report, one in 10 girls in Cameroon have had their breasts ironed, including some as young as eight years old. Risks of the mutilation practice include breast cancer, cysts, and breastfeeding issues, as well as varied psychological effects.

See more from the photo series at Vice.