The treatment by police of a woman breastfeeding her child during a peaceful protest in Australia has drawn attention to the “negligent attitude” being exerted on refugees by authorities at the nation’s offshore processing facilities, according to activists.
Jill Sparrow was participating in a “pram jam” organized by the group Friends, Families and Feminists Against Detention (FFFAD) at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) in Melbourne on Wednesday, when she was evicted by two police officers while in the middle of breastfeeding her 22-month-old son.
— FFFAD (@FFFADmelbourne) November 4, 2015
The group of parents, babies and feminists had planned the peaceful direct action — during which strollers or “prams” were lodged inside elevators to prevent them from functioning, while protesters sat peacefully on the floor to have a picnic — to call for the permanent resettlement of alleged rape victim Abyan in Australia, an end to sexual violence to refugees, and for the closure of all offshore processing facilities.
“Asylum seekers have a right to continue to seek asylum in Australia,” said FFFAD organizer Gabrielle de Vietri in a statement. “Instead of providing safety we’re allowing women who should be part of Australia’s future to be raped and tortured. Abyan should be resettled in Australia immediately away from living side by side with her perpetrator.”
Responding to detractors who accused her of endangering her child, Sparrow turned attention back to the children in detention centers: “Why are my son’s feelings so important, while the well-being of children in detention is a matter of indifference?” she told Daily Mail Australia. “When a government starts overseeing human rights abuses and ignoring international law, it’s time for citizens — including mums and bubs — to undertake civil disobedience.
“If that means breastfeeding while being carried out of a public service building by police, so be it! There are far worse things going on in detention camps!”
De Vietri, who has a 14-month-old daughter, said, “I want my daughter to grow up within a community that advocates for empathy, kindness and solidarity. She needs to know she can speak up when she sees her government acting negligently and peacefully demonstrate to change things for the better.”
On Friday, FFFAD issued a statement highlighting the plight of a second woman, referred to as Golestan, who is in detention on the island of Nauru and understood to be in urgent need of neonatal care. “The treatment of Golestan echoes the same negligent attitude shown towards Abyan,” Sparrow is quoted as saying. “Nauru does not have the facilities to keep this woman safe during birth, Australia does. She needs immediate transferral with her family to the Australian mainland as a matter of urgency. The government has allowed continued child abuse and sexual violence to occur under its watch. We are saying no more. Children need safety, and women need to be respected. Bring her to Australia now!”
The group has called for “pram jams” across Australia in support of Golestan. “We stand strong with the Australian Medical Association which has called for her transferal here,” says Sparrow. “We will accept nothing less.”
Read more at Daily Mail Australia.