Oxford Against Cutting will soon be rebranding to: Sundial Centre for Education on Harmful Practices

Breast Ironing / Flattening 


What: Breast ironing / flattening is a harmful practice that affects women and girls. 


Age: Breast ironing / flattening typically starts soon after puberty, however, given that there is no one age when puberty starts, a girl or woman could be subjected to breast ironing / flattening at any age (whenever she begins to develop breasts). 


Why: To make girls look less ‘womanly’ so they are ‘protected’ from unwanted male advances (e.g. harassment and rape). It is important to remember that breast ironing / flattening is done out of misplaced ideas about love and protection for the girl.


How: Breast ironing / flattening can be done by applying heat using tools such as a hot stone or a pestle, suppressing the breast tissue to hinder the development of the breasts over time.


Breast ironing / flattening can also be done by binding the breasts with elastic bands and bandages, for example, to hinder the development of the breasts. (Please note this web page is not referring to people who choose to bind their breasts due to body dysphoria). 


By whom: Breast ironing / flattening is mostly done by female members of the family, such as mothers, grandmothers and aunts, for example. 


Harms: Breast ironing / flattening can cause the following:


  • Cysts and abscesses 
  • Long term breast tissue damage 
  • Girls and women having significantly different sized breasts
  • Physical pain of the breasts 
  • Psychological harm such as anxiety and distrust 
  • Infections, itching and milk discharge 
  • Girls and women feeling ashamed of their bodies 
  • Psychosexual harms 


Where: Breast ironing / flattening usually happens in the home. It is common in West and Central Africa, but has no borders. It occurs all over the world and has migrated with people and cultures. It is estimated that approximately 1,000 girls have undergone breast ironing / flattening in the UK. 


Breast ironing / flattening is a human rights issue and violates the rights of the girl. 

Please contact us to book our specialist safeguarding workshop on Breast Ironing/Flattening.

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