In Cameroon, some mothers "iron" their daughters' breasts to delay or prevent them from having sex. The procedure often involves grinding a very hot rock into the chest of the girl, but sometimes kerosene or hot plantain peels will do the trick. The practice, which permanently disfigures the girls, starts with adolescence because that's when girls start becoming attractive to boys.
And heaven forbid that anyone expect anything like self-restraint from the boys.
I'd never heard of the practice until I read about it in the Washington Post. But the story is all too familiar. Around the world, women -- girls -- have to pay the price for the barbarity of boys.
In Saudi Arabia, and across the Middle East, men can't handle seeing a little leg -- or even an ankle -- so rather than put a blindfold on the men, they throw a tarp over the women. Indeed, throughout vast swaths of the Muslim world, men can't compute dealing with women as equals, so they lock up the women.
The Taliban in Afghanistan is the most extreme example of the trend. Its members claim they want to keep the "chasteness and dignity" of women "sacrosanct," but it seems like what they really want is to protect themselves from the apparently hard work of not being a savage. So under the Taliban, women couldn't ride bicycles. They couldn't wear high heels because the sound of women's footsteps might excite men. Forget appearing on radio, TV or at public gatherings. Women couldn't step out onto their balconies.
The Taliban has hardly given up on its agenda since being forced from power. In 2008, 10 Taliban militants were arrested for throwing acid in the faces of 15 girls going to school in Kandahar.
The worst cases of female-phobia appear to be in the Muslim world, but the problem is hardly unique to Islam. Across Southeast Asia and throughout Africa, in Christian, animist and Muslim countries alike, women are asked to pay for male inadequacies.
In Cameroon -- not a majority Muslim country, by the way -- an ob-gyn told Washington Post contributor Jamie Rich: "It's very rare to see a 13-year-old girl who is still a virgin." And that's why the mothers mutilate their daughters -- because boys can't be expected to keep it in their pants.