An Australian judge who has been criticized for evicting a breastfeeding mother and her baby from his courtroom has explained his actions as “self-explanatory”.
According to The protector, the woman was feeding her child while observing a trial in Victorian County Court on Thursday when the judge addressed her directly and said she was not allowed to breastfeed in court because it was a distraction . While the court declined to comment on the case, the judge on Friday addressed the jury about the incident, stating that his comments were “self-explanatory.”
“What I [told the mother] was this – ‘Ma’am, you are not allowed to breastfeed a baby in court. I’m sorry. I’ll have to ask you to leave. At the very least, it will be a distraction for the jury,” the judge said, according to the outlet.
“I’m telling you this because it’s something that has attracted some publicity in the media and I think you should know exactly what I said and why I said it. That being said, it’s not a matter that you should give any real consideration to continue as it is irrelevant to your job,” the judge added.
Now the state’s attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, is expected to discuss the matter with the courts. “These disturbing reports are a matter for the district court,” said a spokesman for the attorney general, adding, “However, no woman deserves to be shamed and humiliated for public breastfeeding”.
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In conversation with Australian media The age, the breastfeeding woman said she felt traumatized by the ordeal. “I just felt totally humiliated and ashamed, like I was doing something wrong,” she said.
The woman also stated that she asked the security guard before entering if it was okay to bring the baby into court. She said she was humiliated when she was publicly addressed in court. She expressed disappointment that the judge described breastfeeding as a “distraction”.
From The protectorAustralian Early Childhood Minister 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 should not just be tolerated but celebrated.”
In Australia in particular, pregnant and breastfeeding women are protected in areas of public life, including employment, schools, universities, shops and rental properties, under the Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act. However, it is unclear whether these protections apply in court, as courtroom rules are often left to the discretion of the judge.
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