A short while ago Cinira Longuinho, breastfeeding her child on the steps of a swimming pool, was asked to do so elsewhere by the owner. Longuinho is now declaring that her human rights have been violated. Here’s the Toronto Star’s report on this story.
My wife and I just had a rather in-depth discussion about this matter, and there are many reader comments arguing both sides of the story.
Do women have the right to breastfeed in public? In my opinion, absolutely! On one hand it’s legal for women to do so in Ontario (perhaps not in other provinces) and that’s where this altercation took place. On the other hand, I have no moral objection to this action because that’s what human bodies are built to do.
As it happens, Longuinho was not ejected from the property but was asked to breastfeed in another room, away from the pool area, for public health concerns (the property owner mentions the possibility of breast milk entering the pool, and the likelihood that a fed infant is liable to urinate, defecate, or vomit). As such, it seems to me that the pool owner has no problem whatsoever with breastfeeding, but was trying to accommodate the majority of her guests at the expense of inconveniencing one (or two, as my wife points out to me as she reads over my shoulder).
The key concept here is public. Here’s the third paragraph from The Star’s story:
But the owner of the private pool said her priority is keeping the pool clean for everyone.
Here’s as far as I needed to read before formulating my opinion:
But the owner of the private pool
Done. The breastfeeding woman has equal rights as other patrons inside this private property – pretty much none. The owner of the property, as long as she breaks no laws in doing so, is free to impose whatever rules she wishes and is free to eject whomever she chooses regardless of whether she has any reason. ROAR – Right Of Admission Refusal.
Or so I believe. I might be mistaken.
Longuinho makes mention of a case in 1999 where a woman from Caledon, Ontario, was proclaimed the winner where she was ejected from a public pool for breastfeeding on the premises. As this was a public space the breastfeeding woman was partial owner of that facility and thus was beholden to the law and no further restrictions.
I’d have thought this would be the most important distinction if not for this proclamation by Longuinho regarding the resolution of that case:
They said it was a human rights issue, that I have a right to breastfeed anywhere anytime, in a public space or private space, and so mediated in my favour
This statement troubles me. I like to think that if I own property I should have absolute control over whom is permitted on my property, and should be permitted to eject anyone with or without justification. If I’ve invited someone into my house and they refuse to leave, I should hope that the police would assist me in shooing that person onto public property.
I really don’t feel that there’s any more to this discussion, and I share Longuinho’s desire if not her means:
I’m doing all this because I really think it’s important for women to go in public and breastfeed without being scared.
I couldn’t agree more with this. As Canadian taxpayers we are co-owners of publicly funded spaces. I simply believe that the human right to regulate our own property is greater than that of women to breastfeed wherever they wish. This isn’t a breastfeeding issue in any way.
It is a Canadian woman’s right to breastfeed in public, but it is her privilege to be a guest on private property.
Thanks to my wife for provoking this conversation and for supplying the title to this post.