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Taking photographs of breastfeeding mothers in public is set to be made illegal in England and Wales.
Photographing those breastfeeding their babies in public without their permission will be made a crime thanks to a new law that will form part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill going through Parliament.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the move would stop women being “pestered, whether it’s for self-gratification or for harassment purposes”.
Julia Cooper, from Manchester, who started the campaign after being photographed breastfeeding by a stranger, said she was “delighted” by the move, despite what she described as “too-ing and fro-ing from government” on the issue.
She explained, “It is a victory for breastfeeding mothers and it will provide the reassurance that we can breastfeed in public without strangers freely photographing and filming us as they wish.
“The law is on their side, the law is going to protect them and I am so pleased.”
Julia started the campaign to make taking pictures of breastfeeding mothers illegal after her own experience in a local park last April.
“I sat down to breastfeed my daughter and I noticed a man on another bench staring at us,” she told the BBC.
“I stared back to let him know that I had clocked his gaze, but undeterred he got out his digital camera, attached a zoom lens, and started photographing us.”
Ms Cooper said she was “completely shocked and devastated” by the incident, but her troubles continued after Greater Manchester Police told her no crime had been committed and there was nothing they could do.
“I just felt that was so wrong that we had been violated in this way and there was nothing the police could do to help,” she added.
“I was angry he felt just this right to capture what I was doing. It was disgusting. And I just felt so helpless, so I thought I need to do something about this.”
This gap in the law drove Julia to contact her local Labour MP Jeff Smith and as well as MP Stella Creasy, who had her own experience of being photographed by a teenager on a train when feeding her child.
She told the BBC it was a “horrible experience” that made her feel “so self-conscious”.
The pair took the campaign to the Commons and put forward an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in June, calling for a change in the law.
Fast-forward seven months and the Ministry of Justice has had a change of heart – with government minister Lord Wolfson putting forward his own amendment to the bill in the Lords.
It will make a new offence of “recording images of, or otherwise observing, breastfeeding without consent or a reasonable belief as to consent” and to be found guilty, the perpetrator “must be acting for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification or of humiliating, alarming or distressing the victim”.