Watchdog condemns 'secret photos' of breastfeeding mothers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 June, 2014, 4:48am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 June, 2014, 8:24am

Secretly photographing women nursing their children in public is a violation of personal privacy and infringes on a mother's legitimate right to do so, the anti-discrimination watchdog says.

The Equal Opportunities Commission lashed out yesterday at "secret photography" of women breastfeeding in public, condemning it as a "violation of an individual's personal privacy".

The strongly worded statement comes after a photo of a woman breastfeeding a child on a bus, apparently taken without consent, went viral over the internet, drawing heated debate over issues of privacy and public decency.

"The EOC considers that it is a mother's right to breastfeed her baby anywhere and at any time," the statement read. "The public should accept there is a need for mothers to do so."

The commission called for service providers and property owners, including the government, to provide more facilities in the community for nursing mothers.

The local branch of La Leche League, an international non-profit organisation that promotes breastfeeding, welcomed the statement.

"It is good they are finally recognising that there is discrimination against breastfeeding, even though it is sad in a sense because breastfeeding is the natural way of feeding a baby," spokeswoman Caroline Carson said. "It should be allowed in any public setting."

Carson called for stricter legislation to protect nursing mothers from discrimination.

Women's Foundation CEO Su-Mei Thompson called for more facilities to cater to the needs of nursing mothers.

"We know many women drop out of the workforce when they have children, so we encourage more organisations to review whether they are doing enough to support breastfeeding, for instance by providing facilities for mothers to pump and store milk at work," Thompson said.

A 2013 poll by the Department of Health, Hospital Authority and Unicef's Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative found over 85 per cent of new mothers in the city breastfeed after they leave hospital.