The new Child Rights Law by the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) mandates breastfeeding for the first two years of a child’s life.
Those aruging in favor of the law claim that breastfeeding is a duty every mother should perform as it benefits both herself and her child. Supporters of this new law are also claiming the Quran aligns with their beliefs on breastmilk feeding as a right.
Many citizens questioning the law have been asking how mothers who cannot breastfeed would be affected. Committee member, Sultan Al Sammahi, explains that wet nurses would be provided for mothers who were unable to breastfeed.
I have to say that in light of some of the more positive breastfeeding support initiatives like the Sharjah Baby Friendly Campaign, this seems like it is taking a huge step backward for the rights of women in the UAE.
Three reasons I think this law is a terrible idea:
1. This law most-likely will be detrimental to support. By making breastfeeding a law many people may be scared away from seeking breastfeeding support. Forcing a legal obligation upon parents would result in many citizens become more secretive due to fear of unjust judgments that could potentially result in their children being taken from their loving arms. Competent parents should not have to hide their parenting practices because of militant laws.
2. The law would give husbands the right to sue their wives for not breastfeeding. The Federal National Council suggests that breastfeeding was vital to Islamic law, but most Islamic scholars have agreed that while the Quran mentions breastfeed to two years, it never is mentioned as mandatory, but rather the preferred period of time.
3. The law also limits families who wish to practice child-led weaning with their children. “If the child is breastfed less than two years he might be harmed, and if more the mother might be harmed.” As well-intentioned as this breastfeeding law may be, legally forcing mothers to breastfed for such a specific and limited time frame is perpetuating false ideals of breastfeeding and continuing to alienate mothers who are breastfeeding “too long” or “not long enough”. The law will simply increase the stigma already attached to breastfeeding.