Sunday, 20 July 2008

How Stupid Do They Think We Are?




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This is why we are celebrating breastfeeding in Parliament Square tomorrow. Because women like Emily Pulling, photographed above, are left unprotected from harassment whilst their children breastfeed. As Emily sits in the park, today, and smiles hello for us, her son has a lovely milk feed. In Scotland, if you went over and told her she was disgusting, or asked her to stop, or voiced your opinion that she should hide her son from your view... you would have committed an offence. Emily could call the police, and they would protect Emily by dealing with your harassment and moving you on.
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In England and Wales, Emily and her son have no such protection. In England and Wales, she is left unprotected from the harassment and the bigoted ignorance of others. If you doubt this exists, please peruse the comments section of this article, promoting the Bournemouth picnic. The police will now have an obvious presence in Bournemouth, to protect the mothers and their children.
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There has been quite a controversy about the proposed Single Equalities Bill, and breastfeeding protection this past month. The most damaging aspect of it being comments, by reputed journalists, that mothers like Emily are breaking the law here by allowing their children to breastfeed in public in England and Wales. This is simply not true, and Barbara Follett, Harriet Harman's deputy at Woman and Equalities has finally come out and said so:
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"The law is not as clear as it could be. People are unsure of their rights and their responsibilities in this area. Some people also think that women can be charged with indecency for breastfeeding in a public place. This is utter nonsense and completely wrong."
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It will be interesting to see how many of the journalists correct their misrepresentations in the next few days.
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The BBC acknowledged this inaccuracy a couple of weeks ago, and have been updating old stories on their web sites to remove all reference to breastfeeding in public coming under the Indecency Act. What a pity the message hasn't got through to everyone there 'tho. For only on Friday, a BBC news crew asked a breastfeeding baby and mother to remove themselves from the sight of a camera, in case the BBC news viewers were offended by them on the Six O'clock News. And the mother was not protected from this request, whilst she and her baby sat in the shadow of The Mother Of All Parliaments.
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No news crew would have addressed her in such a way in Scotland. In Scotland, they would have known they were committing an offence.
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Comments upon the conduct of the BBC in this matter, can be addressed here.
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There has been some reaction to Barbara Follett's comments, as they also appear to break down the nonsense of the reported six month protection under Maternity provision. Thankfully, Follett appears to have admitted that maternity protection has no age limit. This is a nice step forward, in dealing with overall ignorance. It makes no difference at all to the issue of mothers and children being left unprotected.
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We all knew it wasn't illegal to breastfeed in public. Making a big show of saying such in the wake of media reports that it was, media reports linked to Downing Street media briefings, is damage limitation, not news!
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And it's still ridiculous to suggest that Maternity provision under the Sex Discrimination Act is protection at all. Being able to sue cafe owners AFTER they have thrown you out, or harassed you, is not protection. Protection is preventing it happening in the first place. All the original objections still stand - how on earth can any mother prove this in a court of law? Why should she? Why should the burden be placed on her, the victim?
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And Emily, sitting up there in a park, isn't covered by this presumed 'right to sue' in any event.
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She's in a public space. No one to sue on discriminating against her on right to equal service.
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And if she's in a cafe, and another customer comes over and harasses her, she has no right to sue them either.
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Not to mention that maternity wouldn't protect a father feeding breast milk from a bottle, or a grandmother feeding formula from a bottle. Hungry babies needing milk aren't protected by Maternity law saying you can sue a cafe owner for throwing you out of the premises for breastfeeding!
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They are protected by legislation stating it is an offence to harass or try to stop any caregiver feeding a child milk, in any place the child has a right to be.
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It's all nonsense.
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The whole "oh we didn't mean that, let me assure you..." is just more smoke and a bigger mirror.
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Still no proper protection bill planned. Still no assurance that they are listening, and proper protection is a priority.
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Still no protection.
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So join Emily at the picnic tomorrow, and help us celebrate that breastfeeding is both normal, and extraordinary, and every day and miraculous. And that hungry babies have a right to food, where and when they are hungry.
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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Morgan and Emily
I hope you and everyone else has a very good day and the voices and milky smiles of sense and reason pervail.
Ann in Northampton

shirley said...

You shouldn't need to resort to new laws or rights. The most natural thing in the world is for a mother to breast feed her baby. It is lovely to see and there is absolutely nothing in the practice that could or should upset anybody.

Morgan said...

Absolutely. Unfortunately, there are really strange people in the world, who see breastfeeding as offensive, perverted and.. wait for it... child pornography and/or paedophillia.

And two of the Mums on the way back from London, were hassled. Ironically, one of them being Emily, above. Who was shouted at on the Tube, by a male commuter, who "didn't want to see that!".

You couldn't make it up.

Read the comments section to both these local newspaper reports of the picnics:

http://www.thisisdorset.net/
mostpopular.var.2391493.
mostviewed.picnic_protest
_at_breastfeeding_ban.php

http://www.oxfordmail.net/
news/headlines/display.var.
2403774.mums_make_
breastfeeding_stand_in_parks.php

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/
news/latestnews/display.var.2401939.0.mothers_get_their
_anger_off_their_chests.php