Why are a woman’s breasts becoming objects of shame in Africa?

RECENTLY, South African clothing retailer Edgars had to apologise for asking nursing mother Tasneem Botha to leave because she was looking to feed and change her baby in-store.

Dozens of mothers later staged a nurse-in at the Cape Town address where the incident reportedly took place in a show of support.

The incident is not an isolated one, in other regions it has been examined widely. But perhaps in Africa it could be gaining currency with the growth of multinationals and those who aspire to their standards.

It is genuinely baffling the amount of negative sentiment expressed by both men and women towards breastfeeding in public. On one hand they say they support human rights, but then abandon their stand when that right is a basic human need to feed, purely because it involves a woman’s breasts.

Women are too often scolded and shamed for providing nourishment to their infants, especially in public spaces. Many restaurants will for example not allow female patrons to breastfeed on their premises, citing it as offensive to fellow patrons. It is grating how babies are prohibited from feeding naturally, while their adult counterparts are encouraged to over-indulge, as babies look on in hunger.

As suggested by the Cape Town incident, the same attitudes prevail in malls, public parks, churches, and even surprisingly, in our very homes.

In many African cultures, seeing a bare-breasted women is quite the norm, and until contemporary times female breasts were seen as just that; a part of the female anatomy  rarely associated with perversion.



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