1. ITV Report

Breastfeeding in public… so what are a woman's rights?

A woman was labelled a 'tramp' this week for breastfeeding in public, sparking outrage from supporters worldwide.

A photograph of Emily Slough was posted on the Spotted Rugeley page on Facebook, along with an abusive message criticising her for feeding her daughter in the street.

The message which sparked the angry reactions Credit: ITV News Central

Messages of support for Emily have poured in around the world, with a protest 'mass feed' now organised for Saturday and other similar events also springing up.

But some have suggested public breastfeeding is inappropriate, and should be confined to bathrooms.

Emily Slough was called a 'tramp' on Facebook Credit: Emily Slough

Now, courtesy of Maternity Action**, here is a comprehensive guide to a woman's rights when breastfeeding.

What is the law on breastfeeding?

The Equality Act 2010 is very clear - to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding is sex discrimination, and is not allowed.

This includes all service providers dealing with the public - they may not discriminate, harass or victimise a woman because she is breastfeeding in any way.

This means, for example, a café owner cannot demand a woman stops breastfeeding or threaten to refuse service if she does not.

This means a woman is allowed to breastfeed in areas including:

  • Parks
  • Sports and leisure centres
  • Public buildings
  • On public transport
  • Shops
  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals
  • Theatres
  • Cinemas
  • Petrol stations
  • Any association or club with more than 25 members

It does not matter how big or small the business is - if they serve the public, they cannot stop a woman from breastfeeding, or offer a lower standard of service because of it.

Any organisation offering public services cannot stop a woman breastfeeding Credit: Katie Collins/PA

Is there anywhere where breastfeeding in public is not allowed?

Yes. A woman can legally be prevented from breastfeeding in a service which is a single-sex service for men.

The organisation must be lawfully single-sex - for example, voluntary services or charities which do not apply to women.

Religious organisations which offer services to one gender due to their religious doctrine may also object.

Breastfeeding can also be banned in areas where there are legitimate health and safety risks.

What can you do if you are discriminated against?

Make an official complaint to the organisation which behaved inappropriately. If this does not resolve the matter, you can take action in a county court up to six months after the incident.

For more information, visit the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

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