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Breast Feeding

Volume 496: debated on Monday 20 July 2009

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what recent representations she has received on the proposals in the Equality Bill in relation to a mother breastfeeding in a public place who is asked to (a) leave that place by a person in authority and (b) stop breastfeeding by a member of the public. (288049)

Following Second Reading of the Equality Bill, interested organisations raised concerns that, as drafted, the Bill reduced the existing protection against discrimination for pregnant women and new mothers. This drew our attention to an unintended consequence of the drafting which would have potentially allowed discrimination against pregnant women or new mothers if this could be shown to be reasonable. Therefore on 9 June, we tabled amendments to the Bill which represent a return to the level of protection given against pregnancy and maternity discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (as amended). These amendments were briefly debated on 16 June and agreed, and now stand part of the Bill.

The Bill makes absolutely clear that breastfeeding mothers are protected from sex discrimination in relation to provision of services to the public, whatever their baby's age. So a woman who is breastfeeding her baby in a restaurant or on a bus cannot lawfully be asked to leave, or get off, for that reason. At present we have no plans to bring forward proposals to provide a legal right for women to breastfeed in public places.