Kolkata woman not allowed to breastfeed publicly inside South City Mall, Kolkata mothers plan “nurse-in” outside
A young woman in Kolkata faced humiliation and agony at a city mall on Sunday evening when she was denied a suitable place to breastfeed her hungry, wailing seven-month-old child. She was told she would have to breastfeed in the washroom and cannot do it publicly.
An angry Abhilasha Paul went home and mentioned it in a Facebook rating of the mall in question – South City Mall – that led to support coming in from a large number of people. A support group – Breastfeeding Support of Indian Mothers – is now planning to hold a peaceful “nurse-in” outside the mall by breastfeeding mothers to raise awareness.
Paul recalled her horror at South City Mall on Sunday evening – which she visited with her sister-in-law and daughter. When the child started crying, Abhilasha realised she needed to be fed. But due to lack of adequate seats at the mall, she could not find a place to sit and feed the child.
So she asked security personnel if there was a space for breastfeeding. “Every time I was told I would have feed the child inside the toilet. There was no other place inside, I was told,” she said. She looked for a space on the first floor, went to the second floor, and finally she reached the floor where repairs are currently on.
“I asked them to allow me inside because my child was hungry and wailing. But I was denied entry,” she said. Soon, she and her sister-in-law thought it would be best to look for a trial room in one of the stores. Most of the trial rooms were full of Sunday shoppers, and they had to run around quite a bit. Finally, a shop with an empty trial room let her in to feed the baby and change the child’s diaper.
When she posted on the “ratings” section of the mall’s Facebook page, the initial response from the mall authorities was this insensitive remark: “Funny you found this to be an issue because breastfeeding is not allowed on the floor for a number of reasons. Incase of any emergency we can make arrangements to help someone but cartainly (sic) this big place that we have is meant for shopping so with all due respect madam please make sure you do your home chores at your home and not in the mall or atleast plan it before hand. It’s not like your baby needs to be breastfed at any moment so you need arrangements to be made for you at any public area you wish to? We cannot compromise the privacy of other people in public places can we?”
This comment was later deleted. However, even later, a comment from South City Mall read thus: “Madam breastfeeding is not allowed on the floor in public area. We can make arrangements but we apologise our staff told you to do that in the washroom which we are sorry about.”
This comment prompted some to ask, like Ankita Bansal did: “South City Mall, why is breastfeeding not allowed on the floor in public area? I would like to hear your reasons.” Another comment from Priyankaa Saha D asked “who passed this law”.
According to Devleena Chakraborty, who is part of the group Breastfeeding Support of Indian Mothers, the breastfeeding mothers are now coming together to hold a peaceful “nurse-in” outside the mall to raise awareness on the issue.
Abhilasha lives in Behala, about 7km from South City Mall. It takes a few hours to travel to the mall and return home. This means that she cannot leave a breastfeeding child at home and stay outside for long. If she doesn’t have a place that “allows” breastfeeding, she would have to stay home all the time, a situation it seems few understand.
South City Mall authorities said though, that they have “specific areas” inside the mall for breastfeeding. “We make arrangements if someone tells us,” an official at the mall office help desk said. However, he refused to comment whether there were signage directing people to these areas. “Our security personnel know and they take women to the mall office in the lower basement area or to another area on the first floor,” he said.
However, all the security personnel had told Ankita on Sunday to go to the washrooms to breastfeed, for which South City Mall authorities have even apologised on social media.
The official could not explain though, why breastfeeding is not allowed in the public area in presence of other shoppers .
Breastfeeding in public is still a major issue. Back in the 1980s, the Indian Postal department had issued a stamp of a breastfeeding mother.
Actor and model Lisa Haydon recently posted her breastfeeding photograph on Instagram.
Kerala-based magazine Grihalakshmi, published an image of a breastfeeding woman on their cover earlier this year. While people reacted in a positive way initially, later it spiralled into a controversy.
Despite all the attempts to raise awareness on women’s right to breastfeed and the government’s guidelines on the goodness of exclusive breastfeeding and breastfeeding in general, there is hardly any awareness among people to let women breastfeed wherever they wish to. And while there are campaigns and programs to raise awareness on breastfeeding, there is clearly a dearth of awareness programmes and/or campaigns on part of the government to push the rights of breastfeeding mothers and their children.
[Cover image from: southcityprojects.com]