Leblouh (lebluh) or gavage is the practice of force-feeding girls as young as five up to teenagers, in Mauritania, northwest Africa, where obesity was traditionally regarded as desirable. Especially prevalent in rural areas and having its roots in Tuareg tradition, 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.
Older women called "fatteners" force the young girls to consume enormous quantities of food and liquid, inflicting pain on them if they do not 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 litres (4.4 imp gal; 5.3 US gal) of camel's milk, and eat two kilos of pounded millet mixed with two cups of butter, every day. Although the practice sounds cruel, mothers claim there is no other way to secure a good future for their children.
The younger generations of males in Mauritania now see fattening negatively.
- Popenoe, Rebecca. 2004. Feeding Desire: Fatness, Beauty, and Sexuality among a Saharan People. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415280969.
- De mujeres abundantemente hermosas (Abundantly beautiful women)
- 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.
- Encyclopedie Berbere: Gavage
- Smith, Alex Duval. Girls being force-fed for marriage as junta revives fattening farms, The Observer, March 1, 2009.
- Young Mauritanians reject forced fattening, Al Arabiya, February 24, 2009.
- Mauritania's 'wife-fattening' farm January 26, 2004.
- Mauritania seeks to reverse 'fat is beautiful' ethos By Sharon LaFraniere July 3, 2007
- Leblouh Negative cultures November 2010
- Mauritania: Force-feeding of young girls waning, replaced by drugs formulated for livestock February, 2011
- Grasso è bello in Mauritania February 25, 2009.
- Forced to Be Fat July 21, 2011
- Force Feeding in Mauritania. Photos by Joost De Raeymaeker 2013
- Where Fat Is a Mark of Beauty Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1998
- Bride Confinement, Fattening and Circumcision: Promoting Violence Against Women December 2, 2012
- The fattening room: Nkuho an Efik tradition 2010
- EAT, EAT, EAT if you want to be loved In Africa, big is beautiful March 25, 2001
- Fattening practices among Moroccan Saharawi women. September 12, 2006
- Le gavage à Djerba 1987
- In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Tunisian Jewish female body was subjected to a dramatic fattening process in preparation for marriage.
- The Price of Beauty Ep# 104 Title: "Uganda" Air-date: April 5, 2010
Kenya and South Africa
- African Queens May 21, 2003