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Leblouh (Arabic: البلوح‎, romanizedlə-blūḥ) is the practice of force-feeding girls from as young as five to nineteen, in countries where obesity was traditionally regarded as desirable.[1][2][3] Especially prevalent in rural areas and having its roots in Tuareg[4] 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 is being done in several African countries, such as Mauritania,[5][6][7][8][9][10][11] Niger,[12] Uganda,[13] Morocco,[14] Sudan,[15] Tunisia[12] (specifically Jewish people[16]), Nigeria,[17][18][19][20] Kenya and South Africa.[21] The synonym gavage comes from the French term for the force-feeding of geese to produce foie gras.

The practice goes back to the 11th century, and has been reported to have made a significant comeback in Mauritania after a military junta took over the country in 2008.[22] The younger generations of males in Mauritania now see fattening negatively.[23]

Older women called "fatteners" force the young girls to consume enormous quantities of food and liquid,[22] 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 is abusive, mothers claim there is no other way to secure a good future for their children.[22][23]

A similar practice is referred to in a folktale entitled "The Tortoise with a Pretty Daughter", collected in Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria (1910). The folklorist who wrote down the story explained the treatment of the "pretty daughter": "The fatting house is a room where a girl is kept for some weeks before her marriage. She is given plenty of food, and made as fat as possible, as fatness is looked upon as a great beauty by the Efik people and Bahumono ."[24]


  1. ^ Popenoe, Rebecca. 2004. Feeding Desire: Fatness, Beauty, and Sexuality among a Saharan People. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415280969.
  2. ^ "De mujeres abundantemente hermosas (Abundantly beautiful women)". Archived from the original on 2014-12-25. Retrieved 2014-12-25.
  3. ^ 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."
  4. ^ Encyclopedie Berbere: Gavage
  5. ^ "Mauritania's 'wife-fattening' farm". 2004-01-26. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  6. ^ LaFraniere, Sharon (2007-07-03). "Mauritania seeks to reverse 'fat is beautiful' ethos". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  7. ^ "African Cultural Complex". African Holocaust Society. 2017-03-24. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  8. ^ Hitchen, Mike. "Mauritania: Force-feeding of young girls waning, replaced by drugs formulated for livestock". Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  9. ^ "Grasso è bello in Mauritania - Corriere della Sera". www.corriere.it. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  10. ^ Haworth, Abigail (2011-07-21). "Forced to Be Fat". Marie Claire. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  11. ^ "Force Feeding in Mauritania by Joost De Raeymaeker | Photographic Museum of Humanity". 2014-11-12. Archived from the original on 2014-11-12. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  12. ^ a b Bernus, E.; Akkari-Weriemmi, J. (1998-09-01). "Gavage". Encyclopédie Berbère (in French): 2996–2999. ISSN 1015-7344.
  13. ^ The Price of Beauty, Episode 104
  14. ^ Rguibi, M.; Belahsen, R. (2006). "Fattening practices among Moroccan Saharawi women". Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal. 12 (5): 619–624. ISSN 1020-3397. PMID 17333802.
  15. ^ Baba, Hana (2013-05-14). "A country where big is no longer beautiful". Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  16. ^ Salamon, Hagar; Juhasz, Esther (2011). ""Goddesses of Flesh and Metal": Gazes on the Tradition of Fattening Jewish Brides in Tunisia". Journal of Middle East Women's Studies. 7 (1): 1–38. doi:10.2979/jmiddeastwomstud.2011.7.1.1. ISSN 1552-5864. JSTOR 10.2979/jmiddeastwomstud.2011.7.1.1.
  17. ^ "Where Fat Is a Mark of Beauty". Los Angeles Times. 1998-09-30. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  18. ^ "Journal from Kashmir - featuring women poets". World Pulse. 2015-10-17. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  19. ^ "namywedding.com". www.namywedding.com. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  20. ^ "Biyokulule Online". www.biyokulule.com. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  21. ^ "Biyokulule Online". www.biyokulule.com. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  22. ^ a b c Smith, Alex Duval. Girls being force-fed for marriage as junta revives fattening farms, The Observer, March 1, 2009.
  23. ^ a b Young Mauritanians reject forced fattening, Al Arabiya, February 24, 2009.
  24. ^ Chapter 1, note 4