Breast ironing is a practice performed with the goal of slowing or preventing breast development in young girls (short explanatory video here). It is particularly common in the country of Cameroon where and estimated 24 to 26% undergo this abuse. Breast ironing often involves the use of heat, such as pressing with fire-heated rocks. The practice is painful and often disfiguring, it is clearly child abuse and so unacceptable--it is in fact illegal in Cameroon.
For some reason this issue is getting a lot of comment across the blogosphere right now. And I see little point to the common online response of "how could they do that, the monsters!" Horror and repudiation might feel good, but what does it achieve? The only answer is education. And education is not delivered with the stick of elitist moralising. These parents clearly need to be convinced that they have alternatives.
(If nothing else work they could try telling them Mel Gibson agrees with them that breast lead to rape, that would change my mind)
Basically women in area of countries like Cameroon live in an environment where unprotected sex in general, and rape in particular, are common. Unplanned pregnancies are disastrous as the girl must leave school and so lose her main opportunity for escaping poverty.
The parents think that young girls are much less likely to attract sexual interest or have sexual feelings. It seems to be a general cultural belief that sex of any kind is not okay with any girl who has not developed breasts. So when they see breast development in girls as young as nine, approximately half of them resort to this abussive practice to try and prevent the development of the breasts.
The only one really doing anything about it is Renata (National Network of Aunties Associations) and they can't take outrage to the bank.