Breastfeeding in Public will be a Woman’s Right

Title: Breastfeeding in Public will be a Woman’s Right


New Bill would protect expectant and new mothers from discrimination.


New Bill: would protect expectant and new mothers from discrimination.  Nursing mothers will be allowed to breastfeed their babies wherever they like under new anti- discrimination laws announced yesterday.  Restaurants, cafes and shops which tried to ban them would face court action
and fines of up to £2,500.  The move is a victory for pressure groups who have been asking for greater rights for mothers in the interests of better health for babies.  It will mean that mothers of children up to a year old will be able to feed them ‘discreetly’ in public – despite the misgivings of restaurant managers or the possible embarrassment of other diners.  The breakthrough for breastfeeding campaigners comes in a scheme for a
sweeping new ‘Single Equality Bill’ designed to replace and streamline 40 years of legislation against prejudice.  The plans, outlined in a 190-page consultation paper from the Communities Department, include laws to curb bias against women at private clubs, new rules to try to ensure dignity for elderly people and ‘balancing measures’ to let police forces and other employers speed the careers of ethnic minority staff.  Mothers who breastfeed are regularly asked to leave business or public premises. In recent months, women have been asked to stop feeding and cover up in the National Gallery and Hampton Court palace in London.  Last month, the Mayor of Trafford in Greater Manchester, Dr Pauleen Lane, went to a tribunal after she was told she could not breastfeed in her official car.In Scotland, however, it has been a criminal offence since 2005 to ban
breastfeeding in cafes, restaurants, pubs, shops or public transport.  The maximum fine, £2,500, is likely to be followed in England and Wales,
officials said yesterday.  The rules will be introduced as part of the Single Equality Bill by Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, who is a longstanding supporter of breastfeeding.  As a junior member of the Government she took her third child Roisin, then three months old, on a parliamentary trip to Rome because she was breastfeeding her. Campaigners said they were ‘delighted’ that the needs of nursing women out with their children had been recognised. But the National Childbirth Trust said the change should be extended to cover children more than a year old.  Rosie Dodds of the NCT said: “According to the latest survey, 13 per cent of women in England and 16 per cent in Wales have been asked to stop or made to feel uncomfortable when breastfeeding.  “We regularly receive calls from distressed mothers who have been told they can’t breastfeed in restaurants or shops, or even in schools and health centres. It leaves them embarrassed, shocked and angry and it is time it stopped.” The consultation paper does not specifically mention breastfeeding, but ministers made clear that this would be the chief impact of new rules forbidding discrimination against pregnant women and mothers of babies. Officials have no definition as yet of what ‘discreetly’ means. That will be decided when ministers assess the results of their consultation. The consultation paper contains a raft of potentially controversial ideas. Police forces would be allowed to fast-track training for ethnic minority recruits.  Government bodies and local councils would, if the law goes through, be told that they must treat all religions equally.  The proposal could risk constitutional arguments because the Church of England remains the established state religion, and the head of state, the Queen, is its Supreme Governor.  But the consultation paper said councils will merely be told they should give equal support to voluntary groups from different religions.  The paper also proposes specialised discrimination courts – local county courts with judges trained in discrimination law.  There was criticism of the new plans from some groups – notably feminists disappointed at the lack of new laws on greater wage equality and organisations for the elderly who said measures against age discrimination should go further.  But ministers say a key aim is to simplify the law, to protect people rather than create extra bureaucracy.



Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of The Federation of Antenatal Educators (FEDANT) unless specifically stated.

Published on