Lactating legislators were on Wednesday given a special room in Tanzania’s parliament to nurse their babies in the latest development over breastfeeding in public.
Women are routinely castigated in some countries for exposing their flesh to nurse, even though breastfeeding is considered the best health option for mother and child.
“We have allocated a room from which legislators with babies will breastfeed their children,” said Tulia Ackson, deputy speaker of the Tanzania National Assembly.
“ We would like to ensure that the babies are in a good health,” she told the chamber.
Some legislators welcomed the new Tanzanian move as a way to help women balance work and family life and as the best option for babies’ health.
However advocates say women should be free to nurse openly in the chamber, in defiance of critics who call it indecent.
Last month an Australian senator made history by breastfeeding as she addressed the chamber, months after a Spanish MP provoked criticism for nursing in parliament.
Lawmakers are not allowed to feed their babies in the Tanzanian parliament and must now use the set-aside room to nurse when it is in session.
Ackson said the move aimed to encourage breastfeeding and was in line with a directive from the country’s health ministry that babies should be breastfed for at least two years. Yet the country has a mixed record when it comes to nursing mothers.
Last week, President John Magufuli said that schoolgirls who become mothers would not be let back into school after giving birth, and appeared to mock the young mothers for multitasking.
“After calculating some few mathematics, she’d be asking the teacher in the classroom ‘let me go out and breastfeed my crying baby,’” said President Magufuli.