ABU DHABI // The Federal National Council has passed a clause in the Child Rights law requiring mothers to breastfeed – despite concerns from a minister.
The council’s session on Tuesday continued a marathon debate on the legislation, during which the Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Al Roumi, said such a law could lead to husbands suing their wives if they did not breastfeed.
“This part of the law can be a burden,” she said. “If the law forced women to breastfeed, this could lead to new court cases.”
Salem Al Ameri (Abu Dhabi) insisted that breastfeeding was a right for all children, as mentioned in Islam.
Dr Amal Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi) said that because labour laws already allow working women to take time to breastfeed, adding the requirement to the legislation showed consistency.
The clause was added to the law once it was passed to the council’s health, labour and social affairs committee for review.
Sultan Al Sammahi (Fujairah), a member of the committee, said it was the right of all children to be breast fed up to the age of 2.
It remains unclear how the law could be enforced, and Mr Al Sammahi suggested that if complications arose or mothers were neglecting their duties, they could be punished.
Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman) said the clause aimed to help nurture a strong relationship between a mother and her child.
He said the law’s intention was that breastfeeding should be a duty and not an option for able mothers.
Members also tried to add a number of rights for working women into the law but were refused by the minister.
The committee wanted a clause mandating the Government help working women to protect their children and to ensure all workplaces had a nursery, but Ms Al Roumi said this would be problematic because of the vagueness of the language.
“I am not against working women but there are seven laws on working women,” she said. “We cannot talk about working women here and ignore stay-at-home mothers.”
She reminded members that the law was on children’s rights and not the rights of mothers.
“The Government should not be held responsible for everything,” Ms Al Roumi said. “This clause is too big and clashes with other laws.”
Some members insisted on the article’s importance but others were happy for it to be removed.
The minister told members that a law on nurseries would be referred to them soon.
Since a decision was taken for nurseries to be built at federal and government entities, there had been a 360 per cent increase in them.
Members eventually agreed to remove the working women clause and to wait for the nurseries law.