• Mon
  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 3:45pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Stop this discrimination against breastfeeding women

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2014, 4:51am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2014, 4:51am

At first glance a photograph of a woman breastfeeding her baby, taken without her consent, is a privacy issue, even if she was in public at the time. Indeed, the Equal Opportunities Commission issued a strong statement about violation of privacy after a photo of a woman breastfeeding a child on a bus went viral on the internet, prompting heated debate about privacy and public decency. But the issue also involves the rights, and needs, of nursing mothers and their babies.

The EOC condemned secret photography of women breastfeeding in public as a "violation of personal privacy" and added: "The EOC considers that it is a mother's right to breastfeed her baby, anywhere and at any time. The public should accept there is a need for mothers to do so."

We agree, but the reality is that some people find the sight of breastfeeding in public discomfiting or even offensive. There is a need for continuing education about the rights of the mother and the benefits of breastfeeding to mother and baby. Nursing mothers would also be less likely to give unintended offence if, as the EOC suggests, service providers and property owners, including the government provided more facilities for them in the community.

In this respect, as a city of shopping malls, Hong Kong is not that family friendly. A South China Morning Post survey last year of 15 shopping centres found that 11 had only one or two nursing rooms - with poor signposting.

There are health and economic reasons for combating discrimination against breastfeeding. Decades of research shows breastfed children have lower rates of hospital admissions and medical problems like allergies, diarrhoea, ear infections and rashes.

Our ageing workforce can ill afford to lose women at the peak of their productivity when they drop out of the workforce to raise infants. Employers should be encouraged to support breastfeeding, for example by providing facilities for mothers to pump and store milk at work.


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This article is now closed to comments

I find it hard to understand why anyone would be offended by the sight of someone breastfeeding. If the mother is uncomfortable doing it in public, I find that understandable, but if she is I'm not sure that anyone would/should take offense...
How ridiculous to be offended by a woman breastfeeding her child. People, you were babies too back then!
I totally support that breastfeeding in public could be discomforting to many people because people don't know whether they should turn their heads away. No offense, I was a breastfeeding mom years ago. Women should be more cautious about meeting their private needs to feed baby any time anywhere with proper preparation to avoid unwanted attention. Bring a big shawl with you so that you can cover the front when you are breastfeeding. This is a respect to yourself and to others. Displaying your body in public is not a decent thing to do in the first place and claiming that photographers are violating privacy is a joke.
Most HK babies are bottle-fed.
Are people getting confused? It is not about people getting offended by the sight of breast feeding, but that it is a 'breach of privacy' that she is photographed. If it is a 'private' act, please keep it private. If it is done in public, inside a bus, for example, how can photographing the event be a 'breach of privacy'?
How about women breastfeeding in private, but bring a bottle of whoever's milk for use in public? Wouldn't that be a sensible resolution? Other people's discomfiture, if any, should be addressed too, since there are codes for dress in oublic. Films with scant clothing for women are after all X rated.


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