Zuleikha Hassan, a Kenyan Member of Parliament (MP) was asked to leave a parliamentary session Wednesday by the temporary speaker of the lower house for bringing her child.
The decision of the speaker sparked outrage among Hassan’s colleagues. She walked into the chamber while they were discussing a resolution on border dispute with Somalia.
Hassan, a mother of three, said she had to bring her child because she could not make any arrangements and she did not want to miss her work.
“But today I had an emergency so what was I supposed to do? Miss parliament and miss my duties just because of a baby and that’s why I just came with her and knew I would stay here for a while and then later when my situation is better I could, but if there was a room, a creche or a nursery here I would be able to then put my baby,” Hassan said.
The speaker, Christopher Omulele, disrupted the session for 15 minutes until she was forced to go out. Omulele said her move was “unprecedented.”
“As much as she might want to take care of her child, this is not the place for it,” he said.
Several MPs walked out after this incident which coincidentally took place during the World Breastfeeding Week. A heated debate ensued in the parliament. “Now we ask for more women to come into parliament, you need to provide a family-friendly atmosphere,” she said outside.
Some of her colleagues suggested allocating an area for breastfeeding.
“If you are a member of parliament who is breastfeeding, in the best interest of that child, the child cannot be separated from you when you are in the course of your duty in the assembly,” said MP Peter Kaluma.
Majority leader Aden Duale dismissed it saying that Hassan was “out of order” and her action was “gross misconduct.”
“We must protect the dignity of the house,” he said.
Kenyan government passed a bill in 2017 which directed employers to provide areas for mothers to change and breastfeed their babies.