We need to protect breastfeeding women from voyeurs – so why did the debate get so weird?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new contender in the 2021 edition of Britain’s Most Embarrassing Politician! Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, an unelected life peer, recently graced us with his unfiltered thoughts on a proposed amendment to the Voyeurism Act that would criminalise taking non-consensual pictures of a woman breastfeeding.

A change in the law, Wolfson warned, could hurt innocent people. Take, byvoorbeeld, the case of a man photographing his bikini-clad wife on a beach, “intending to use that image for his own sexual gratification”. What would happen if the photographer accidentally caught a breastfeeding woman in the background? Would the law consider him a pervert?

Wolfson raised valid concerns about potential ambiguities in the drafting of the law. These concerns, egter, could have easily been expressed in any number of less weird ways. Maar, geen, there was the honour of a hypothetical man taking hypothetical photos for his hypothetical sexual gratification to protect.

The noble lord’s detailed objections have, understandably, raised some eyebrows … as well as a number of questions about the contents of Wolfson’s family photo albums. But let’s not allow ourselves to be derailed from the real issue here. Which is the disgraceful fact that, under the current law in England and Wales, it is legal to take non-consensual photos of a woman breastfeeding in public. And people are taking advantage of this: the proposed amendment came about after a woman in Manchester called Julia Cooper tried to challenge a man taking photos of her nursing and was told by police she had no legal recourse because there wasn’t a reasonable expectation of privacy. Two Labour MPs then took up the cause under the slogan Stop the Breast Pest.

I can’t stress this enough: hypothetical men taking photos of their wives on the beach for their “sexual gratification” aren’t the people we should be concerned about here. What we should really be concerned about is the fact that, in 2021, women still don’t have the freedom to breastfeed in peace. And the fact that we have unelected peers chiming in on women’s rights. Free the breasts, abolish the barons, that’s what I say.

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