One MP described her “horror” after being photographed while breastfeeding on public transport when she and another MP launched a campaign to criminalize taking such pictures.
Stella Creasy, the Labor MP from Walthamstow, said she was breastfeeding her then four-month-old wife on an above-ground train near Highbury and Islington in north London when she noticed a teenage boy was laughing and taking pictures.
“That was before the lockdown, when I had a very young baby. I realized she needed to be fed, she was crying, ”she told the Guardian. Creasy said she noticed the teen was staring.
“He had his cell phone out and I thought he was playing on his cell phone and then I realized with horror that he was taking pictures,” she said. “You feel exposed. I don’t think he can have a good picture, but the sheer horror at the point where you focus on supporting your newborn baby … and someone does, it was mean.
“Because I was feeling quite vulnerable, I got off my train as quickly as I could. I was wondering if he was a resident and recognized me because he laughed. “
Now Creasy is working with Manchester Withington Labor MP Jeff Smith to make the behavior illegal with a campaign called Stop the Breast Pest. The campaign came after MPs were both contacted by a Smiths voter, 32-year-old Julia Cooper, after seeing a man photograph them with a long lens camera while breastfeeding.
“Julia had a lot more courage,” said Creasy. “Julia confronted the man who did it and then went to the police and was told it was legal.”
The campaign aims to pass an amendment to the Voyeurism Act that will make it a criminal offense to take non-consensual photos of people who are breastfeeding.
The Voyeurism Act passed in 2019 prohibits taking non-consensual photos of the genitals or buttocks, also known as upskirting. However, photos of the upper body are not criminalized.
“I was on the voyeurism bill and we argued with the minister at the time that the focus on below the waist was a mistake. To see reality firsthand, that has to change, ”said Creasy.
“It’s not about whether or not you should breastfeed in public, it’s absolutely about consent. Women should be able to do this wherever they have to, whenever they need to, without anger, and anger includes not only people criticizing them, but behaviors like this one. You should be able to feed yourself in peace. “
Creasy said she hoped the government would support the move, adding that she had already received a lot of news from the public.
“I guess a lot of people don’t know it’s not illegal. But just because of the messages I’ve received, this is happening more than people realize, ”she said. “Unfortunately there are some very creepy people out there who believe they have the right to photograph women breastfeeding for their own pleasure, and that is unacceptable.
“I hope we and Jeff can work together and speak up to bring about this change in the law. That is why we are here. ”