MELBOURNE – A judge in Australia sparked outrage when he told a breastfeeding woman to leave his courtroom for being “a distraction”, The Age reported.
The woman had been observing a trial on Thursday during the closing remarks of a high-profile case, when the judge addressed her directly and order her to vacate the County Court of Victoria in central Melbourne, according to the report.
The move generated widespread public criticism, spurring County Court judge Mark Gamble on Friday to defend his decision as “self-explanatory” and that breastfeeding a baby was not permitted in court due to it being a “distraction for the jury at the very least”, according to The Age.
The woman, who does not want to be named publicly, told the newspaper she felt traumatised by the incident, and that she had earlier checked with a court security guard to see if bringing her baby into the courtroom was allowed.
A spokesman for the County Court of Victoria declined to comment. The Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes was not immediately available for comment.
Women in Australia are protected by laws that prohibit discrimination against breastfeeding, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The minister for early childhood, Ms Ingrid Stitt, was also asked about the incident at a press conference on Friday.
“In 2023, it’s extraordinary that this has happened at all. It’s really disappointing,” she told reporters. “The important message for Victorian women is that we support you and your right to be able to care for your children, and if that means you have to breastfeed in a public building, then that is something that should not only be tolerated, but celebrated.”