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Breastfeeding mum banished to toilets

BRONWYN TORRIE
HEALTH REPORTER
Last updated 05:00 26/10/2012
UNHYGIENIC OPTION: Jayshriben Patel, 26, and her son,  Aryan, 18 months. She was told to stop breastfeeding at the Indian Community Hall in Wellington.
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
UNHYGIENIC OPTION: Jayshriben Patel, 26, and her son, Aryan, 18 months. She was told to stop breastfeeding at the Indian Community Hall in Wellington.

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A mother was told she must breastfeed in the toilets at an Indian hall in Wellington.

Jayshriben Patel was kicked out of the Indian Community Hall's temple area for breastfeeding her toddler during an event at the hall in Kilbirnie on Sunday.

She had gone into the Hindu temple to feed her son in private, away from the hundreds of people in the main hall. She was sitting there quietly on her own when a woman told her to get out.

Her angry husband, Bharat Patel, said there was no cultural bar on breastfeeding in a temple, but doing so in public was frowned upon by many Indians, which was why his wife had retreated to the temple.

His brother-in-law, Kishor Magan, complained to members of the Wellington Indian Association, which runs the hall.

No apology was offered and he was told that women could breastfeed in the toilets. "You can't feed the baby in the toilet - you change their nappy in there," Mr Magan said.

It is illegal to stop a woman breastfeeding in public, which includes workplaces, public transport, parks, restaurants, shops and government departments.

The Human Rights Commission has received five complaints in relation to women being barred from breastfeeding in public in the past two years.

Mr Patel said it was unhygienic for a baby to be fed in a toilet and he expected more from his community.

"It's very disgusting. I know my country is very poor, but no one would have to do that."

Breastfeeding Authority executive officer Julie Stufkens said no woman should be forced to breastfeed in a toilet.

"People do not go and sit and eat their dinner in a toilet, so why would it be acceptable for an infant to have to do that?"

Wellington Indian Association president Mukesh Jeram said last night that it was not the association's policy that women must breastfeed in the toilets.

"The person who spoke to the complainant does not represent the Wellington Indian Association . . . There is no WIA policy that prevents a woman from breastfeeding in the temple or anywhere else on the premises.

"During the period it happened there would have been near to 600 people on the premises, so that may have just been the personal view of that particular person."

The incident comes after a judge asked a breastfeeding mother to leave a Queenstown courtroom this week.

Catherine Owen was feeding her 18-week daughter in the public gallery while waiting for her partner to appear on Tuesday when a judge is reported to have asked, "Why is there a baby being breast-fed in my courtroom?"

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Ms Owen, of Wanaka, left. She said she was embarrassed by the incident, but did not intend to take it any further.

The debate about the merits of breastfeeding was reignited when All Black Piri Weepu appeared in an anti-smoking campaign bottle-feeding his baby daughter in February.

Since then there have been calls for women to be supported in whatever choice they make.

The Health Ministry recommends babies be exclusively breastfed for their first six months because it gives them "the best start in life".

CLARIFICATION

The Wellington Indian Association has no policy preventing breastfeeding at the temple or elsewhere at the Indian Community Hall. In relation to a story published on October 26, The Dominion Post accepts that neither a woman who told mother Jayshriben Patel to stop breastfeeding in the temple nor an association member who later told her relative that mothers should breastfeed in the toilets were representatives of the association. Wellington Indian Association president Mukesh J Patel has apologised to the family.

Contact Bronwyn Torrie
Health reporter
Email: bronwyn.torrie@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @brontorrie

- © Fairfax NZ News

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