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Kenyan MP thrown out of parliament for breastfeeding baby

A Kenyan MP was ejected from parliament after she brought, and tried to breastfeed her baby in the house. Zuleikha Hassan brought her five-month-old baby into parliament because of an emergency at home. Many African countries are still lagging behind in supporting breastfeeding in the workplace. Governments, and employers are obligated to provide an environment that empowers women to breastfeed their children.

A Kenyan MP was ejected from the National Assembly after she brought her baby into the house. Zuleikha Hassan was forced to bring her five-month-old daughter into parliament because of an emergency at home.

According to reports from Kenya, Hassan was escorted out of parliament by the sergeant-at-arms as she attempted to feed her baby.  The breastfeeding MP was forced to leave the house because of stringent parliamentary rules.

The act of breast-feeding in parliament caused  a stir, which led to a halt in the parliamentary proceedings. The incident divided opinion among the lawmakers.

The speaker of the house reportedly called Hassan’s actions “unprecedented” and the majority leader said the action was “out of order” and “gross misconduct”.

The matter has also divided opinion on social media, with many criticising the MP’s expulsion from parliament. 

Breastfeeding in parliament has been a major issue in Africa and internationally. Many African countries are still lagging behind when it comes to supporting breastfeeding in the workplace. In 2016, Kenya’s parliament incidentally approved a bill allowing breastfeeding at work. Kenya joined only a few countries in Africa with clear legislation and good practices, which compel employers to provide special breastfeeding areas for employees with babies. The bill was widely hailed as a step in the right direction to encourage women to continue breastfeeding when they return to the workplace.

In South Africa, breastfeeding mothers are protected by the country’s Basic Conditions of Employments Act of 1997, which provide guidelines for employers and workers on the protection of employees during pregnancy, after birth of a child and and while breast-feeding.The Code of Good Practice is part of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the law compels employers to allow breastfeeding mothers to take two 30-minute breaks a day to feed their children amongst other requisites.

In 2015, the Parliament of Uganda became the first public institution to offer a breastfeeding facility in the country. The facility comprise of a play area, kitchen, sleeping area, breastfeeding room and bathroom.

The initiative by the parliament of Uganda was widely praised considering that  research indicate that women who are employed full-time are less likely to initiate breastfeeding and to continue breastfeeding once they return to work, owing to a number of workplace-related impediments.

Breastfeeding is a fundamental right recognised by UNICEF under Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Article notes that breastfeeding is “an essential component in assuring the child’s right to the highest attainable standard of health,”

“This means that governments are under an obligation to ensure an environment that empowers women to breastfeed their children if they choose to do so”.

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