The Department of Health should work hand-in-glove with the Home Office to stamp out the “appalling and barbaric” ritual of breast-ironing, says UKIP Health Spokesman Louise Bours.
Ms Bours says breast ironing should be considered another form of female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice she has long campaigned against.
Breast ironing uses heated objects, including stones and hammers, to flatten a girl’s breasts to stop them from developing.
It is thought to have affected at least 1,000 women in the UK, although there is no exact figure. Not a single prosecution against it has ever taken place in this country.
Breast ironing is typically carried out when the girls are aged between 11 and 15 as they enter puberty, and is often done by the victim’s own family under the “misguided intention” of protecting her from rape and sexual harassment, according to the United Nations.
The UN estimates up to 3.8 million girls worldwide are affected.
Breast ironing is particularly widespread in the West African nations of Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Togo and Benin.
Ms Bours, MEP for the North West, said: “There is something particularly wrong with the way young women are seen in certain cultures.
“Breast ironing is as medieval and barbaric as FGM, where a young woman or girl’s genitals are butchered for no good reason whatsoever.
“The appalling results of breast ironing will affect those young women physically and mentally for the rest of their lives.
“Does anyone really think that physically abusing young women, by flattening their breasts or taking a piece of glass to their genitals, is in any way a good thing for them? Really?
“I do not accept that these practices can be carefully ignored or dismissed on the grounds of ‘culture’. It is nothing less than out and out child abuse.
“I would urge the Department of Health to work hand-in-glove with the Home Office to seek out and prosecute the persecutors of this dreadful crime.
“That means GPs and hospital staff working alongside the police to first spot the abuse and then take every step necessary to convict the abusers.
“This is 2016 not 16 AD. We are not much of a society or nation if we can’t protect the most vulnerable young women and girls within it.”
Ms Bours has written to Home Secretary Theresa May and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt urging their two departments to work closer on the issues surrounding breast ironing.