Taking unsolicited pictures of women breastfeeding in public will soon be a punishable offence in England and Wales. The law will form part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill going through Parliament.
Victory for breastfeeding mothers
Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab is confident the new law will stop women from being 'pestered, whether it's for self-gratification or for harassment purposes.'
Campaigners have welcomed the decision, calling it a victory for breastfeeding mothers.
The campaign to have this act criminalized was started by Manchester-based designer Julia Cooper after her own experience in a local park last April. She told the BBC:
I sat down to breastfeed my daughter and I noticed a man on another bench staring at us. I stared back to let him know that I had clocked his gaze, but undeterred he got out his digital camera, attached a zoom lens and started photographing us.
Feeling ‘shocked and devastated’, Cooper reported the incident to the Greater Manchester Police but was told there was nothing they could do about it.
I just felt that was so wrong that we had been violated in this way and there was nothing the police could do to help. I was angry he felt just this right to capture what I was doing. It was disgusting. And I just felt so helpless, so I thought I need to do something about this.
Together with the office of her local labour MP, Cooper took the campaign to the Commons, putting forward an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in June.
Their call for a change in the law was not immediately taken on board, but now an amendment to the bill has been put forward. It will criminalize the offence of:
Recording images of, or otherwise observing, breastfeeding without consent or a reasonable belief as to consent. (The perpetrator) must be acting for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification or of humiliating, alarming or distressing the victim.
Ms Cooper said she was ‘delighted’ by the decision, despite how long it took. She said:
It is a victory for breastfeeding mothers and it will provide the reassurance that we can breastfeed in public without strangers freely photographing and filming us as they wish. The law is on their side, the law is going to protect them and I am so pleased.