Debate begins over new UAE law that requires mothers to breastfeed
M. Spencer Green, Associated Press
Mothers in the United Arab Emirates are now required by law to breastfeed their children for two years, according to The National.
This comes after the Emirates’ Federal National Council passed a clause — as a part of the Child Right law — that not only makes it a law for women to breastfeed, but also gives men the right to sue their wives if they don’t breastfeed, The National said.
“This part of the law can be a burden,” said Mariam Al Roumi, minister of social affairs in the UAE, according to The National. “If the law forced women to breastfeed, this could lead to new court cases.”
Full repercussions for not following are not clear, The National reported, but women can face punishment for not abiding by the new law.
Carrie Murphy from Mommyish.com doesn’t approve of the new law. She said it’s OK for women to breastfeed, but she doesn’t like that women were underrepresented in the decision-making process.
“I think breastfeeding is truly wonderful and amazing and I think women should do it (if they want to, if they can),” she wrote. “But I don’t think it should be mandated by law.”
Murphy wrote there are some positive effects of breastfeeding, but not everyone can do it, which makes the law more complicated. Wet nurses will be provided for those who can’t, though, Murphy said. But this also raises some questions that UAE mothers should consider.
“I’m slightly appreciative that the UAE wants to support breastfeeding on a state level,” she wrote. “We could use more of that here, specifically in relation to our maternal leave policies. But a law? A law saying that you must feed your child from your breast until he or she is two years old? No. It’s ridiculous and restrictive.”
The Out of Blues group, a Dubai-based support group for women who suffer from prenatal illness, explained its reasons why the breastfeeding law is impractical, explaining that some women won’t breastfeed effectively.
“There are many more circumstances that result in women failing to breastfeed effectively and, in its present form, this law does not seem to make allowances for these women,” the group said. “The danger is that with the threat of punishment, these women could face additional stress at an already challenging time, risking serious repercussions and potentially contributing to postnatal depression.”
And this new law, Out of Blues wrote, won’t help society overall, despite the positivity that comes from breastfeeding.
“It is our opinion that, while encouraging women to breastfeed is a laudable aim, it is by supporting those who can and want to breastfeed, and not by punishing those who can’t, that we will reap the benefits we all want to see in our society.”
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