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Leblouh or gavage[1] is the practice of force-feeding teenage girls and including girls as young as five, in Mauritania, where obesity was traditionally regarded as desirable. Especially prevalent in rural areas, and having its roots in Berber tradition[citation needed], leblouh is practiced to increase chances of marriage in a society where high body volume used to be a sign of wealth. The practice goes back to the 11th century, and has been reported to have made a significant comeback after a military junta took over the country in 2008.[2]

Older women called "fatteners" force the young girls to consume enormous quantities of food and liquid,[2] inflicting pain on them if they don't eat and drink. One way of inflicting pain is to pinch a limb between two sticks. A six-year-old might typically be forced to drink 20 liters of camel's milk, and eat two kilos of pounded millet mixed with two cups of butter, every day. Although this may sound cruel and confronting, mothers claim there is no other way for the children to have a good future.[2][3]

The younger generations of males in Mauritania now see fattening negatively.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ LaFRANIERE, SHARON. In Mauritania, Seeking to End an Overfed Ideal, The New York Times, published on July 4, 2007. Accessed on June 30, 2011.
    • "Girls as young as 5 and as old as 19 had to drink up to five gallons of fat-rich camel’s or cow’s milk daily, aiming for silvery stretch marks on their upper arms. If a girl refused or vomited, the village weight-gain specialist might squeeze her foot between sticks, pull her ear, pinch her inner thigh, bend her finger backward or force her to drink her own vomit. In extreme cases, girls die, due to a burst stomach.
    The practice was known as gavage, a French term for force-feeding geese to obtain foie gras."
  2. ^ a b c Smith, Alex Duval. Girls being force-fed for marriage as junta revives fattening farms, The Observer, March 1, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Young Mauritanians reject forced fattening, Al Arabiya, February 24, 2009.

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