Breast ironing should be made part of the mandatory school curriculum to protect young girls from abuse, the National Education Union has said. The BBC reports.
The practice involves ironing a girl’s chest with hot objects to delay breasts from growing, so she does not attract male attention.
Conservative MP Nicky Morgan said teachers must also be educated, as they have a “very important role to play”. The Home Office said teachers have a duty to report concerns.
“Kinaya” – whose name we have changed – lives in the UK. Her family descends from west Africa – where breast ironing originates – and she was subjected to it aged 10.
She said her mother told her that “if I don’t I iron them, men will start coming to you, to have sex with you”.
It is often the child’s mother who will undertake the breast ironing, which usually involves heating a stone or spoon on a flame then pressing, massaging or flattening the breast. This can go on for months.”
One woman told the Victoria Derbyshire programme she only realised breast ironing was not normal when she discovered her body looked different to her classmates during a PE class at her UK school, which led her to become distressed.s.
“If my PE teacher had known, if they were trained, I could have had the help I needed growing up,” she said.
Kiri Tunks, joint president of the National Education Union, is now calling for school staff – and in particular PE teachers – to be taught how to notice the signs.
She also wants it to be covered in schools in the same way as FGM will be from 2020, as part of compulsory relationships and sex education classes in secondary schools.
One woman, “Simone”, told the Victoria Derbyshire programme she was breast ironed aged 13 when her mum found out that she was gay.
“According to her, maybe I was attractive because of my breasts, so if she can iron them and I’m flat, then maybe I’ll be ugly and no-one will admire me.”
There is no specific offence for breast ironing, but the Home Office described it as a form of child abuse and said it should be prosecuted under general assault laws.
Angie Marriott, a former gynaecological nurse who now works as a safeguarding lecturer for Cheshire Police, said that the true scale of breast ironing in the UK was being obscured because of under-reporting.
Read the full article and watch interviews with the abused women Breast ironing awareness ‘needed in school’ – Video
Have you heard of this type of child abuse before? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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