I’ve blogged before about the fight to get breastfeeding included in Western Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation. That fight is logged below – now, for purely historical reasons!
Because today, finally, the Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill 2009 passed the Upper House of WA Parliament.
One chap from the Nationals did insist on getting a little harrumph in:
Nationals MP Max Trenorden said while he supported the legislation, he had never come across a woman who had been discriminated against while breastfeeding.
Dude, whatthefuckever. Try reading the paper sometime. Or maybe a blog.
The main body of the bill has been amended: wherever “pregnancy” appeared previously, now appears “pregnancy or breast feeding”. In addition, Section 10A has been added to clarify the definitions of breastfeeding discrimination:
10A. (1) Discrimination on the ground of breast feeding
For the purposes of this Act a person (in this subsection referred to as the discriminator) discriminates against another person (in this subsection referred to as the aggrieved person) on the ground of breast feeding if on the ground of —
(a) aggrieved person breast feeding or bottle feeding an infant or proposing to do so;
(b) a characteristic that appertains generally to persons who are breast feeding or bottle feeding; or
(c) a characteristic that is generally imputed to persons who are breast feeding or bottle feeding,
the discriminator treats the aggrieved person less favourably than, in circumstances that are the same or not materially different, the discriminator treats or would treat a person who was not breast feeding or bottle feeding; and
(2) For the purposes of this Act, a person (in this subsection referred to as the discriminator) discriminates against another person (in this subsection referred to as the aggrieved person) on the ground of breast feeding or bottle feeding if the discriminator requires the aggrieved person to comply with a requirement or condition —
(a) with which a substantially higher proportion of persons who are not breast feeding or bottle feeding comply or are able to comply;
(b) which is not reasonable having regard to the circumstances of the case; and
(c) with which the aggrieved person does not or is not able to comply.
Of particular note is the fact that, although the title of the Act includes “An Act to amend the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 to prohibit discrimination against mothers breast feeding in a public place”, the language of the Amendment itself is gender-neutral.
They have also gone to pains to make the language feeding-method-neutral, though we haven’t seen any reports of formula-feeding parents and carers being discriminated against in the ways breastfeeding families are. That’s a big “shrug” for me; I imagine there was some political posturing behind this, and if it got the job done, it’s not going to do any especial harm that I can see. I do wonder if that language might make it easier to argue that this legislation also protects the expression of milk to feed a baby – is that breastfeeding? Bottle feeding? Both? Now, no-one needs to wrangle over that. Given the issues that have occurred with women being followed and harassed for expressing milk, I think this is important.
Congratulations to all the activitists who made this happen!
* April 16, 2009: Mothers Not Human: In The Words Of Our Premier
* September 15, 2009: SUCCESS! Breastfeeding discrimination law likely to change in WA
Categories: gender & feminism