Restaurants are allowed to ban women from nursing in public on their premises, according to a decision by the state’s equality board, Ligebehandlingsnævnet.
The board's decision was the result of a complaint brought against Copenhagen department store Illum by a woman who was asked to leave an in-store café by a manager who told her breastfeeding was not permitted. The woman left and later complained to Ligebehandlingsnævnet that not allowing nursing was a violation of her rights.
The board has now ruled against her, saying the apparent discrimination in this instance was warranted in the interest of other customers who may have been offended.
Surveys suggest that most Danes are not offended by public breastfeeding as long as it is done discreetly and with respect for others.
Women's rights organisation Dansk Kvindesamfund mocked the decision on its Facebook page, showing an advertisement for breast enhancement which showed a pair of nude breasts prominently displayed on the side of a city bus.
“Who knows what nursing women may get up to,” read the sarcastic caption under the photo. “You might wind up with a pair of breasts smashed into your face without asking for them.”
Lisa Holmfjord, the head of Dansk Kvindesamfund, said that the decision flies in the face of volumes medical and mental health advice that trumpet the benefits of breastfeeding.
“Everywhere in our society we are bombarded by sexualised and scantily-clad female bodies,” she told The Copenhagen Post. “But a woman who is breastfeeding is to be considered indecently exposured and potentially violating the law?”
At least one restaurant owner disagreed with the decision. Friedrik Weisshappel, owner of the Laundromat Cafe in Copenhagen said nursing women were welcome in his place.
“I have never seen a woman pop her breast out and spray milk everywhere,” Weisshappel told DR News. “They are very quiet and often a little shy and make sure that they cover themselves.”