Mauritanian Girls Force-Fed for Marriage

'Torture' returns as ideal of large women makes a comeback
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2009 4:00 PM CST
Woman working in the local fishing market walk past near the local fishing port situated on the outskirts of the city of Nouakchott, Mauritania, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2008.   (AP Photo/Candace Feit)
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(Newser) – A military coup in Mauritania has erased years of advances in women's rights, bringing a resurgence of the practice of force-fattening young girls to prepare them for marriage, the Guardian reports. "A woman's size indicates the amount of space she occupies in her husband's heart," explains an activist, who says the traditions will be hard to break.

The cultural significance of a woman's weight as a symbol of her husband's wealth and power goes back centuries in Mauritania and its west-African neighbors. Girls as young as five are stuffed with grains and butter—and forced to drink their own vomit if they can't keep the food down. Many Mauritanians claim the practice no longer exists.