Australian Judge Defends Removing Breastfeeding Mother From Court, Says…
An Australian judge who has been criticised for ejecting a breastfeeding mother and her baby from his courtroom has explained his actions as “self-explanatory”.
According to The Guardian, the woman was feeding her child while observing a trial in the Victorian County Court on Thursday when the judge addressed her directly, saying she was not permitted to breastfeed in court because it was a distraction. While the court declined to comment on the matter, the judge on Friday addressed the jury about the incident and stated that his comments were “self-explanatory”.
“What I [told the mother] was this – ‘Madam, you will not be permitted to breastfeed a baby in court. I’m sorry. I will have to ask you to leave. It will be a distraction for the jury at the very least,” the judge said, as per the outlet.
“I am telling you this because it is something that has attracted some media publicity and I think you need to know exactly what it was that I said and why I said it. That said, it is not a matter that you should be giving any real consideration to going forward as it is irrelevant to your task,” the judge added.
Now, the state’s attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, is expected to discuss this matter with the courts. “These concerning reports are a matter for the county court,” a spokesperson for the attorney general said, adding, “However, no woman deserves to be shamed and humiliated for public breastfeeding”.
Speaking to Australian media outlet The Age, the woman who was breastfeeding said that she felt traumatised by the ordeal. “I just felt totally humiliated and shamed, like I was doing something wrong,” she said.
The woman also stated that she asked the security guard before she walked in if it was ok to bring the baby inside the court. She said that she was humiliated when she was addressed in court publically. She expressed disappointment that the judge described breastfeeding as a “distraction”.
As per The Guardian, the Australian minister for early childhood, Ingrid Stitt, was also asked about the incident at a press conference. “In 2023, it’s extraordinary that this has happened at all. It’s really disappointing,” she said, adding, “The important message for Victorian women is that we support you and your right to be able to care for your children, and if that means you have to breastfeed in a public building, then that is something that should not only be tolerated but celebrated.”
Notably, in Australia, pregnant and breastfeeding women are protected in areas of public life, including work, schools, universities, shops and rental properties, under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act. However, it is unclear if these protections apply in court as courtroom rules are often left to the judge’s discretion.