FORWARD was recently asked to comment on the issue of breast ironing amongst African communities in Scotland, following a Scottish Government consultation on FGM which also covered the issue of breast ironing. See here for more details.
FORWARD has been working with African communities on FGM and related abuses of African women and girls for over 33 years, whilst we do know that breast ironing is an issue affecting mainly women and girls from Cameroon and as such would possibly affect the Cameroonian diaspora, FORWARD has only come across one case of a woman who had undergone this abuse while in Cameroon. At present we do not have any evidence of any case in the UK.
We at FORWARD find it perplexing that the Scottish ‘Strengthening protection from FGM’ consultation includes breast ironing under the category of ‘other issues’ along with vaginal elongation or labia stretching which IS a form of FGM. FORWARD would not classify breast ironing as any form of FGM as breasts are not classed as genitals. FORWARD does consider breast ironing a harmful traditional practice and if more cases are disclosed it is important that policy makers ensure that girls are safeguarded from undergoing this. FGM is a huge problem in the UK with 137,000 women and girls affected in England and Wales and a further 60,000 girls being at risk, FORWARD believes that in order to address this issue governments need to continue to and increase collaboration with communities affected by FGM, to ensure sufficient funding is allocated to BME organisations working to end FGM and providing support and services to those at risk of and affected by FGM. – Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director.