The government has pledged to oppose the practice of breast ironing, to call it abuse of children, and to say that the police should prosecute offenders under the law of assault.
In a written parliamentary statement following the Guardian's revelations that abuse is spreading in the UK, the Interior Ministry said it has committed itself to challenging cultural attitudes behind all "honor-based abuses", but has not indicated that it will pass legislation.
"Ironing the breast is child abuse and illegal," says Lady Williams in response to a parliamentary question submitted by Lord Carlyle. "No one should suffer because of who they are or in what community they are born."
British border officers at ports and airports are trained to look for signs of people at risk of abuse and to conduct regular joint police operations to raise awareness of potential victims of honor-based abuse including the ironing of breast.
"Although there is no specific cheating crime, the police have a number of other crimes available to deal with any cases they face," she added. "This includes offenses of ordinary assault, actual bodily injury or serious bodily injury. There are also specific violations of the child's cruelty and causing or causing the child to suffer serious physical disability, both of whom have a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment. "
The Minister's statements came after the Guardian revealed anecdotal evidence of dozens of recent cases in which a girl's breasts "ironed" a hot stone to slow down the breasts.
A woman living on the outskirts of an English city told her how she had begun to iron her daughter's chest at the first signs of puberty. The child develops bruises and the mother is questioned by the police before being released with caution.
Police can prosecute offenders under attack laws, Williams says. "There are also specific crimes related to the cruelty of children and causing or allowing the child to suffer serious physical disability, both of whom have a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment," she said.
Perpetrators, usually mothers, consider the practice as a traditional measure that protects girls from unwanted male attentions, sexual harassment and rape. In West Africa, where the idea is thought to have arisen, the perpetrators have told the Guardian that the goal is to slow the development of the breast so as to prevent sexual activity in the girls before.
Medical experts and victims consider it to be child abuse, which can lead to physical and psychological scars, infections, breastfeeding, deformities and breast cancer.
Community workers in London, Yorkshire, Essex and the West Midlands have reported cases of chest ironing but the custom is extremely dull and there is no official evidence of how widespread it is.
The police said they would pursue, but could do little without accusations and witnesses. Some experts argue that a specific law against breastfeeding can help by referring to similar experiences with the criminalization of forced marriage. But the government said it was not willing to legislate.
According to one of the activists who had been an infant victim, Margaret Newyaviewa, at least 1,000 women and girls were subjected to violence in the UK. There was no systematic study or formal data collection.
The government earlier said it was "absolutely committed" to abolish the practice.