“You are breastfeeding? Then where is your baby? Your baby is in Singapore?”
These were just some of the taunts Singaporean mum Gayathri Bose had to endure last Thursday, at Frankfurt airport.
Singaporean mum shamed at Frankfurt airport
According to the BBC, the incident happened at security check, when Gayathri, who was travelling alone, was on her way to board a flight to Paris. After her carry-on bag containing her breast pump went through the X-ray machine, she was taken aside. Apparently, the officers had trouble believing that the device was a breast pump.
They retained her passport and took her to a room for questioning.
Things however, got absurd from there on. According to Gayathri, once inside the room, the female police officer insisted that she ‘prove lactation’.
Proof of lactation
The BBC quotes Gayathri as saying, “She asked me to open up my blouse and show her my breast. She then asked how come I didn’t have anything attached to my breast, if I was lactating and expressing breastmilk.
I said, there is no such thing that is [permanently] attached, we usually place the pump to our nipple and the machine does the job. She wanted me to show her by hand-expressing a little.”
Gayathri ended up squeezing her breast just so that she could ‘prove’ her innocence, “I was just in shock, I was going through the motions. I was all by myself as well, and wasn’t sure what would happen to me if they decided to make trouble for me. It was only when I came out of the room that I began to slowly understand what had just happened. I just started to cry, I was terribly upset.”
It seems the pump was finally cleared by the officials after it was checked and tested. Gayathri was allowed to get on the plane, but before that, she asked for the name of the female officer, and wrote it down on a piece of paper.
According to Gayathri, “When they finally cleared me of the matter, I told them that this is not the way to treat someone. I said ‘Do you know what you just did to me, you made me show my breast.’ The officer just said, ‘Okay it is over now, please go’. She was totally nonchalant, she didn’t seem very remorseful or empathetic.”
“While I do respect the need to do security checks on items that may seem suspicious, to outrage a person’s modesty is definitely crossing the line,” says Gayathri who describes the 45-minute-long ordeal as “humiliating” and “very traumatising”.
Meanwhile, according to the BBC, Gayathri, mother of a three-year-old child and a seven-month-old baby, and manager at a transport company, has filed a complaint with the German police. She is now contemplating taking formal legal action.
Frankfurt airport version
The BBC reports that a Frankfurt airport police spokesman has agreed to having stopped Gayathri for checks, suspecting her breast pump to be an explosive. However, he has apparently denied that she was asked to squeeze her breast.
In an official statement emailed to the BBC, he says, “The federal police has been aware of the allegation since Friday. The investigation revealed that a necessary follow-up was carried out by the policewoman, who is a mother of two children herself. We deny the allegation that the passenger was asked to prove her ability to breastfeed.”
Image source: iStock
We agree that these are certainly dangerous times to live in; when terrorists are known to smuggle explosives and create havoc by hook or by crook.
However, we just can’t get over the fact that this Singaporean mum was asked to expose herself and prove her ability to breastfeed, to justify carrying a breast pump. A thorough check and perhaps testing the breast pump out would have been far more logical?
As Mr Christian Altenhofen, spokesman for the German federal police unit at Frankfurt Airport told the BBC, “If a suspected explosive is detected at an air safety control point, the baggage and the person must be searched. The measures you have described for a breastfeeding mother are clearly not included.”
Sincerely hope that Gayathri gets the justice she deserves.
Also READ: Singaporean mum shamed for breastfeeding in public
(Source: BBC News, Singapore, The Straits Times)
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