Reclaiming the Public Space: Breastfeeding Rights, Protection, and Social Attitudes
(2013) 7 McGill Journal of Law and Health 147
22 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2013 Last revised: 19 Aug 2014
Date Written: September 1, 2013
Breastfeeding is a normal physiological process. Despite the literature that indicates the importance of breastfeeding in terms of maternal and infant health, there is still opposition to women breastfeeding in public spaces. This manifests itself in private commercial establishments preventing mothers from breastfeeding or ordering them to stop. Mothers are thereby discouraged from feeding in public or in private spaces open to the public (quasi-public spaces). In this article, the authors advocate for stronger legal protections for mothers who seek to breastfeed in public or quasi-public spaces. While breastfeeding in such spaces is implicitly protected under human rights law, this in itself does not send a strong enough message. Accordingly governments should amend human rights legislation to explicitly recognize the right to breastfeed in public and quasi-public spaces. Furthermore, the authors contend that governments should make it an offence to prohibit or prevent women from breastfeeding in public or quasi-public spaces. Punishment for breach of the offence could result in a substantial fine. Importantly, it would place the onus of the litigation on the Crown and relieve mothers who are already burdened from having to litigate the matter. It would also demonstrate the State’s interest in assisting those who may be more vulnerable.
Keywords: breastfeeding, human rights, public spaces, quasi-public spaces
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