Information for the Public
Breast flattening (sometimes known as breast ironing) is when a girl’s breasts are pressed with a hot object, massaged, pounded, or flattened over time to flatten them and delay their development.
Breast flattening usually starts with the first signs of puberty, which can be as young as nine years old. It is often done by a female family member such as a mother, aunt, or grandmother, who believe this will help keep the girl safe from unwanted attention from men. In some families, large stones, a hammer, or spatula that have been heated over scorching coals can be used to compress the breast tissue. Other families may opt to use an elastic belt or binder to press the breasts so as to prevent them from growing.
It should also be acknowledged that some adolescent girls and boys may choose to bind their breast using constrictive material due to gender transformation or identity, and this may also cause health problems.
National FGM Centre What Is Breast Flattening or Breast Ironing? – Provides further information on Breast Flattening and Breast Ironing.
Childline Online – Provides further information regarding gender identity.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a painful, non-medical procedure undertaken on girls and young women which can seriously harm their long-term health. It is a form of child abuse and is illegal in the UK. FGM comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs (HM Government, 2022). It is also known as female circumcision or cutting, and by other terms, such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan. FGM is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of fifteen, most commonly before puberty starts (NHS Digital, 2022).
The Department of Health and Social Care has published leaflets for patients who want to know more about FGM. These are available in the following languages:
Mwy o wybodaeth am FGM – Welsh version
ስለ ኤፍ ጂ ኤም ተጨማሪ መረጃ – Amharic version
مزيد من المعلومات حول ختان الإناث – Arabic version
FGM اطلاعات بیشتر درباره – Farsi version
Renseignements complémentaires sur les MGF – French version
Informasi selengkapnya tentang FGM – Indonesian version
Macluumaad dheeraad ah ee ku saabsan FGM – Somali version
Habari zaidi kuhusu ukeketaji wa wanawake – Swahili version
ብዛዕባ ኤፍ ጂ ኤም ተወሳኺ ሓበሬታ – Tigrinya version
ایف جی ایم کے بارے میں مزید معلومات – Urdu version
NHS Digital (2022). Female Genital Mutilation – Overview
HM Government (2003). Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003
‘Honour’ based abuse is often referred to as “so called” as there is a need to be clear that there is no ‘honour’ in abusing someone. ‘Honour’ based abuse is an incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation, coercion or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial, or emotional), which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the ‘honour’ of an individual, family or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and/or communities code of behaviour (Crown Prosecution Service, 2018).
‘Honour’ based abuse can include murder, attempted or actual forced marriage, controlling sexual activity, domestic abuse, child abuse, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault, harassment and forced abortion. It should be noted that this is not an exhaustive list.
Crown Prosecution Service (2018). The Code for Crown Prosecutors
The National Action Plan to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief aims to address certain kinds of child abuse, which includes:
- Witchcraft and spirit possession, demons or the devil acting through children or leading them astray (traditionally seen in some Christian beliefs).
- The evil eye or djinns (traditionally known in some Islamic faith contexts) and Dakini (in the Hindu context).
- Ritual or muti murders where the killing of children is believed to bring supernatural benefits, or the use of their body parts is believed to produce potent magical remedies.
- Use of belief in magic or witchcraft to create fear in children to make them more compliant when they are being trafficked for domestic slavery or sexual exploitation (National FGM Centre, 2019).
The reasons a child may be subjected to abuse linked to faith or belief may be a result of the child being identified as ‘different,’ for example, having a disobedient or independent nature, bed wetting, nightmares, or illness. Attempts to exorcise the child may include:
- Cutting or stabbing
- isolation within the household.
Children with a disability may also be viewed as ‘different’, and various degrees of disability have previously been interpreted as ‘possession’, such as a stammer, epilepsy, autism or a life limiting illness (Manchester Safeguarding Partnership, 2022).
National FGM Centre (2019). Exploring Concerns Around Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief
Manchester Safeguarding Partnership (2022). Child abuse linked to faith or belief – advice for practitioners