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British girls as young as 10 face harm from breast ironing with stones heated on hot coals in ritual imported from west Africa

Around 1,000 British girls face harm from the ‘abhorrent’ practice of breast ironing, ministers have warned.

In the brutal procedure, hot objects [stones, a hammer or a spatula] are used to pound and beat girls’ breasts to stop them growing in the belief it makes them less desirable and discourages premarital pregnancy.

Breast ironing originated in Cameroon, where it affects as many as one in four.

It also takes place in Nigeria, Benin and Chad. This week Jake Berry, the Conservative MP for Rossendale & Darwen, said he was shocked to learn girls in west African communities in Birmingham and London were victims too.

It is very difficult to spot as most of the perpetrators were the victims’ own mothers.

Mr Berry used freedom of information requests to show how little is known about the practice among child protection professions and the police.

A quarter of children’s services department had not been trained to look for signs, while one in seven police forces had never heard of it.

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