Posted by: Admin | June 24, 2011

Dear LC – Is there a law that protects breastfeeding in public?

Yes! There sure is! And it is the strongest law available on the planet: the International, the Canadian and the Provincial Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Three different areas of the charters cover breastfeeding: women’s rights, children’s rights and the right to health and health care. They are all equally important, but one element that needs to be addressed is the child’s rights, as he does not have his own voice and very has little direct power concerning his rights.

The Child’s Rights

Children do have rights and as they are not aware of this, it is up to his parents, his family and his community to defend these rights for them. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, in article 25(1), “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food…. This right is also reaffirmed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1976. Article 11 says that “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing, and housing…” and “the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger…. Also in 1990 came the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 24 says that “States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health… (paragraph 1) and shall take appropriate measures “to combat disease and malnutrition…through the provision of adequate nutritious foods, clean drinking water, and health care“(paragraph 2c) and, “take appropriate measures to diminish infant and child mortality” (in paragraph 2a).

All this tells us that the child has the right to the best nutrition there is. He is also entitled to the best care! The best nutrition and care is given by breastfeeding. According to the World Health Organization, the first food choice for a baby is breastmilk directly from his mother, the second is expressed breastmilk from his mom, the third is breastmilk from another woman (for instance, from a milk bank), and a distant fourth choice is a safe alternative like artificial milk.

If a woman breastfeeds her child in public, people need to understand that this is the child’s right!!!

The Mother’s Rights

The child has the right to be breastfed anywhere and anytime, but what about the woman? What about her rights? First of all, let’s establish what a “public” place is. By definition, a public place is any place where you do not need a special invitation to be there, like a commercial area, a restaurant, a mall, a park, a playground, a municipal pool, and so forth.

A United Nations human rights convention adopted in 1979, and since adopted by most countries (Canada signed in 1982), specifies that to discriminate against women on the basis of their reproductive status (pregnancy and lactation) is to discriminate against women. Since only women can become pregnant and breastfeed, discriminating against a pregnant or breastfeeding woman is to discriminate against sex, which infringes on our human rights.

So the answer is “YES”, woman can breastfeed their babies anywhere and anytime!

 In the Week-End Post, I will write about our society’s responsibility towards breastfeeding and the woman’s and child’s right to the best health care. I will also tell you about the procedures to follow if you are asked to stop breastfeeding or to leave a public place while breastfeeding.

 « Bonne Fête de la Saint-Jean » everyone! Be safe!

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