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Sammy Wilson says breastfeeding Commons MPs 'voyeuristic' and not motivated by need to feed baby

'First of all the woman has to expose her breasts'

By Claire Williamson

Published 22/07/2016

An independent review said MPs should be allowed to breastfeed in the chamber.
An independent review said MPs should be allowed to breastfeed in the chamber.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has described women who want to breastfeed in the House of Commons as "exhibitionists" saying the practice should be done in private as it would attract voyeurs.

The comments were made on the BBC Stephen Nolan radio show during a discussion about an independent review that said MPs should be allowed to breastfeed in the parliamentary chamber.

>>Audio: Listen to Sammy Wilson's views on MPs who breastfeed in House of Commons<<

The East Antrim MP questioned women's "motives" for wanting to breastfeed in the chamber. He initially described it as "voyeuristic" before changing the word to "exhibitionism".

The DUP distanced itself from Mr Wilson's comments saying they represented a "personal view".

<<Scroll down for reaction>>

Mr Wilson also spoke more broadly on the topic and said that mothers should seek to find a more "private" place to feed their children as "the woman has to expose her breasts".

Speaking to Stephen Nolan on the BBC, he said: "In the House of Commons for women who want to breastfeed their children, they can do it without being under the glare of the cameras in the Commons Chamber.

"There are plenty of opportunities to do it elsewhere and I don't think it's appropriate.

"This kind of voyeurism, to an extent that is how it would be viewed in some cases. If you have somewhere else to go why do you have to come into the House of Commons chamber, have it on film and everything else, when there is somewhere else.

"It's voyeuristic if you have the opportunity to do it somewhere that is much more private away from the glare of the public, the cameras etc.

"For me anyone who chooses to do it in the chamber rather than the quietness of their office, is doing it for reasons other than simply feeding the child."

Sammy Wilson MP
Sammy Wilson MP

He added: "If people want to choose to do that you have to ask, is it appropriate to bring the child in, and if you decide it is appropriate and you want to do it in the Chamber, have you got a motive other than to feed the child."


When asked if he stood over the term "voyeurism" he gave an alternative.

"Exhibitionism then, if you want me to use another word," he responded.

"If there are no other alternatives, and the child needs fed that's fine. My generation regard it as a very private thing, if it can be done privately it should be done prviately."

Mr Wilson also spoke more broadly on the topic and said that women outside of the chamber should also seek to find a more "private" place to feed their children as "the woman has to expose her breasts".

'A more private action than public'

"I would prefer that something like that would be done more privately than in a public place," he said.

"I think the very nature of the action is something that should be a more private action rather than a public.

"Simply first of all because the woman has to expose her breasts, secondly for many people, and more of my age, for many people it's not regarded as something you would normally expect to see happening in a public place.

"And for all of those reasons I think it should be done more in a private capacity."

"There may be occasions where it can't be and there aren't private opportunities to do it and if the baby needs fed you have to make allowances for that.

"Where it is possible it should be a private action."

'No time for prudish attitude'

Commentator, mother and Belfast Telegraph columnist Fionola Meredith also spoke on the Nolan show and said she was "depressed" listening to the debate.

"I have no time for this prudish, squeamish attitude from a lot of men and indeed women of an older generation who disapprove in some kind of moral sense of women doing the most natural thing.

"I find it extraordinary that Sammy seems to think that women who choose to breast feed in the House of Commons are some kind of exhibitionists wanting to flaunt their boobs to the nation. This is crazy stuff."

She added: "All this about naked bits of the body.

"No-one will see anything naked, the child will be fed. Breasts can be sexual but they can also be for feeding kids and both is ok."


A DUP spokesman said: "We recognise that the benefits of breastfeeding are well established, with a positive impact on both babies and mothers.

"It is vital we continue to promote breastfeeding and ensure adequate public awareness of its benefits."

Ulster Unionist Stormont assembly member Jo-Anne Dobson said Mr Wilson should withdraw his comments.

"Sammy Wilson needs to stop acting like a teenager giggling at the back of biology class and grow up," said the UUP MLA.

Mr Wilson's Wikipedia page was also edited and screengrabs were shared online.


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