Equal Opportunities Commission


Press Releases

Press Releases

EOC Article: Treat breastfeeding mothers with respect and dignity


The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) condemns the action of a taxi driver who recently posted a photo of a breastfeeding passenger on the internet, and indeed all discriminatory and harassment acts against breastfeeding women. Not only is the act disrespectful towards women and infringes upon the passenger’s privacy, it also hinders the establishment of a breastfeeding-friendly environment. Mothers have a duty to look after their children. The public needs to respect their right to breastfeeding.

What’s even more worrying is that this is not an isolated incident. Notwithstanding Hong Kong’s standing as a modern international city that values gender equality, there have been many instances recently of women being bullied and humiliated for breastfeeding in public.

Two years ago, for example, an internet user posted a picture of a mother, whose body was covered, for breastfeeding on a bus and criticised her for doing so. In March this year, a local celebrity was harassed and insulted by a woman while breastfeeding in a female changing room of a 5-star hotel. Following the incident, she lamented that hotels and shopping malls in Hong Kong lack breastfeeding rooms.

The EOC has been handling complaints related to breastfeeding under the “Family Status Discrimination Ordinance”. In the past 4 years, the EOC has received a number of such complaints, including discrimination against breastfeeding when using services or in the area of employment.

In recent years, breastfeeding has become more popular in Hong Kong. Regrettably, discrimination against breastfeeding – from public facility operators, employers or work colleagues – has also been on the rise. But still, current legislation does not explicitly stipulate discrimination against breastfeeding as illegal.

In March, the EOC recommended the Government to tackle this problem as one of the high priority issues following a review of the discrimination law. More specifically, the EOC urged the Government “to introduce express provisions prohibiting direct or indirect discrimination on the ground of breastfeeding”. This could be done by either amending the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, or as an amendment to the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance. Furthermore, the EOC recommended that the definition of breastfeeding should also include expressing milk.

In addition to changes to the law, we all need to play our part in ensuring mothers who are breastfeeding feel safe to do so in our city. These women are doing their best to ensure our next generation grows up in the best of health. They should be treated with dignity and respect.


Professor Alfred Chan

Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission

9 December 2016