Thursday, 1 May 2014

Illegal is Illegal

There's a petition going round that calls for Sports Direct to issue an apology for the treatment of breastfeeding mother, Wioletta Komar, in one of their stores. I am reluctant to sign it. For a start, a forced apology is meaningless. But, more importantly, this situation calls for much more than an apology, however much Ms. Komar would like to receive one.
Breastfeeding mothers are protected by the Equality Act of 2010. It is illegal to harass, victimise or discriminate against a woman because she is breastfeeding. You cannot ask a woman to leave a public place or feed elsewhere or cover up; you cannot refuse to serve her because she is breastfeeding. It is against the law. 
The chap in Sports Direct who told Ms. Komar that she couldn't feed in the store committed a crime. An apology isn't good enough. When a crime is committed, then there should be consequences under the law.
I keep seeing discussions about what people think of public breastfeeding. Those discussions are irrelevant. Who cares what Joe Bloggs thinks? It is the LAW! Some people think it is acceptable to drive over the speed limit, but if they are caught speeding, then the consequences of breaking that law are enforced, be it a fine, points on their license and/or having to attend a speeding awareness course. This needs to be the case whenever the law is broken. When someone discriminates, harasses or victimises a breastfeeding mother, then that person should have to do much more than just apologise. Restitution should be made, and they should experience the consequences of breaking the law. Fines, for instance, though I think there ought to be a breastfeeding awareness course that they could be sent on. We certainly need more education on the subject in this country. 
Sophie Howes started legal proceedings against Ashford Leisure Trust after she was told she couldn't breastfeed in a swimming pool. She received a payment from an out of court settlement. And I'm glad of it. This needs to happen every time a breastfeeding mother is treated in a manner that breaks the law. Only then will these situations happen less often. If all that is required is an apology, then nothing will change. 
So, while I'm angry that Wioletta Komar was made to feed her baby outside in the rain, and while I do think she deserves an apology, I really believe that she should expect more. It's not just for her, but for all breastfeeding women in the future. A precedent must be set, and the law must be upheld. 

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