Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Lawmakers propose new breastfeeding bill

CHANGING PERCEPTIONS Proponents say that society needs to pay more attention to the benefits of human milk and to the problems that are caused by baby formula

By Shih Hsiao-kuang, Peng Hsien-chun and Wei Yi-chia  /  STAFF REPORTERS

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) has drafted a proposal for a law to support the right of mothers to breastfeed in public, giving working mothers added protection to nurse while at work and setting clear legal standards for the distribution of substitute baby formulas.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓) said the government has been working to promote breastfeeding in recent years, but there is still clearly a long way to go because the proportion of mothers using baby formula in Taiwan is one of the highest in the world.

She went on to say that getting society to pay attention to this issue and changing public perceptions about breastfeeding is more important than the actual passage of the law.

Under the new proposal, mothers would get six months of paid maternity leave and have a right to demand flexible working hours to nurse their child. Employers violating the law could be fined between NT$5,000 (US$151) and NT$100,000.

If a woman is fired because she needs to nurse her child, she would be entitled to half of her monthly wages while the lawsuit is being investigated, and the employer could face up to 30 days in jail or a fine between NT$10,000 and NT$200,000.

Employers would also have to provide a space for mothers to nurse at the workplace.

Offending employers could be subject to fines of NT$10,000 to NT$200,000, which would continue to be imposed if they failed to comply with the regulation within the allotted time.

In addition, both non-profit and commercial organizations would be forbidden from providing free or discount baby formula, nor could they encourage mothers to use it.

Formula producers and dealers would be prohibited from advertising at companies or providing free samples to mothers.

Formula packaging and related advertising would also contain a notice describing the benefits of breastfeeding. Organizations or companies found in violation could be fined between NT$50,000 and NT$1 million.

Although nursing rights are covered under the Gender Equality Employment Law (兩性工作平等法), proponents of the new proposal feel that the current legal protections are not strong enough and that they do not address breast- feeding concerns specifically.

They hope that the new law will focus attention on the importance of proper breastfeeding and create a more nursing-friendly environment for mothers.

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