Taking photos of mothers breastfeeding in public is to be made illegal in England and Wales.
Taking photos of mothers breastfeeding in public without their consent is to be made illegal in England and Wales, with Dominic Raab saying the decision will stop women from being “pestered, whether it’s for self-gratification or for harassment purpose.”
Campaigners welcomed the move, calling it “a victory for breastfeeding mothers.”
The law will be part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill going through Parliament.
Julia Cooper, a Manchester-based designer, started the campaign to make taking photos of mothers breastfeeding their babies illegal following her own experience last April.
“I sat down to breastfeed my daughter and I noticed a man on another bench staring at us,” she told the BBC.
“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.”
Ms Cooper said she was “completely shocked and devastated” by the incident, however, Greater Manchester Police told her a crime had not been committed and there was nothing they could do.
“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,” she added.
“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.”
She got in touch with her local Labour MP Jeff Smith and his colleague Stella Creasy – who also had her own experience with being photographed on a train when feeding her baby – telling the BBC it was a “horrible experience” that caused her to feel “so self-conscious.”
Ms Cooper and Ms Creasy took the campaign to the Commons, putting forward an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in June, calling for a change in the law.
Even though Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said taking such photos is “unacceptable, creepy and disgusting behaviour,” she said the government was waiting for a review from the Law Commission on how to move forward.
The Ministry of Justice has now decided to make a new offence of “recording images of, or otherwise observing, breastfeeding without consent or a reasonable belief as to consent” and to be found guilty, 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 “too-ing and fro-ing from government.”
“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.”
Ms Creasy said the change “shows the law needs to keep up with the times, with people having phones and being able to take pictures and share them so easily.”
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