‘Breast ironing’ to stunt girls’ growth widespread

1 in 4 girls in Cameroon suffer this abuse to protect against rape

Not long ago, on a private E-mail thread, several of us discussed cultures at length. I asserted that some cultural practices simply have no place in today’s world. Others defended Multiculturalism and said it was the height of arrogance that someone from one culture should be so brazen as to judge the practices of another.

This is, of course, a very slippery slope and it would be impossible to draw a line and assert that on this side are acceptable cultural practices and that on the other side are practices the world should do away with.

I don’t have the logical answers to resolve this debate – but I do believe that some practices are so repugnant that only those who have grown up steeped in them and invested in them as a normal part of their culture and their life could find them acceptable.

When you ask people of all spiritual faiths if they think there are any ethical universals, they will usually cite, “Thou shalt not kill.” I believe there are others. You may argue that I am just a product of my own culture and therefore as biased as anyone else. Perhaps – that’s a hard charge to defend against since none of us are free of cultural influences.

But to counter, I’d say that some of us have been thinking for some time about what a conscious intentional humanity might become if it looked long and hard in the mirror of introspection and questioned all of its behaviors and beliefs. Certainly, after such a review we would chose to retain some things and reject others.

Along this line, I think that men and women are equal and should have equal rights in all matters. My apologies to those who think differently – but I think you are wrong. And I believe that practices like female genital mutilation are wrong as well. This list could go on but this is not the time or place for such an enumeration.

The story, below, is another cultural practice that I think is utterly wrong. Read it and judge for yourself if all cultural practices should be equally defended.

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (Reuters) — Worried that her daughters’ budding breasts would expose them to the risk of sexual harassment and even rape, their mother Philomene Moungang started ‘ironing’ the girls’ bosoms with a heated stone.

“I did it to my two girls when they were eight years old. I would take the grinding stone, heat it in the fire and press it hard on the breasts,” Moungang said.

“They cried and said it was painful. But I explained that it was for their own good.”


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