The European Union Court of Justice have ruled in favor of Spanish fathers of breastfeeding infants. Specifically, Spanish fathers are now granted the same rights as their partners in order to prevent them from falling into a “subsidiary role”. Spanish parents may take a breastfeeding leave consisting of an hour off during the middle of the work day or leave work a half-hour early during the first nine months of their infants life.
Although you may wonder why fathers would need a breastfeeding leave considering they can’t lactate, the court ruling recognized the importance of family bonding.
Here is a review of what international papers are saying about the ruling:
- National Post (Canada)
To be fair, this is not how it sounds. The European Union Court of Luxembourg did not override the Spanish law because they have a hard time understanding anatomy and how the body works. The breastfeeding break is meant to be a time where families can arrange their schedules to be close to their newborns without the stress of work getting in the way, and not so much about the literal act itself…
The court found the Spanish law to be “unjustified discrimination on grounds of sex” because fathers did not enjoy the same rights.
- The Malta Independent
Not giving dads the same right as mums in this case “is liable to perpetuate a traditional distribution of the roles of men and women by keeping men in a role subsidiary to that of women in relation to the exercise of their parental duties,” the court ruled…
The Spanish law was instituted in 1900 to facilitate breastfeeding by the mother, but it has evolved over the years and the right has been granted for bottle-feeding too, the EU court said.
Breastfeeding leave should now be considered as “time purely devoted to the child” in order to reconcile family life and work following maternity leave, it said.
- Times of India
The Spanish man who challenged the law, Pedro Manuel Roca Alvarez, said his request to take breastfeeding leave from his job in Galicia was rejected because the mother of his child was self-employed.
Such a refusal, the court said, could have the effect of forcing self-employed mothers to limit their work because the father cannot share the burden.
I find it interesting that the court is concerned about fathers in subsidiary roles, when women traditionally have held such a place in western culture. I applaud the court’s ruling, but I wonder if an hour a day is enough. I also like how this law encourages breastfeeding beyond six months.
Spain has a history of supporting fathers. Effective January 1, 2011, paternity leave will be extended from 13 days to four weeks, in addition to two paid days for each child born. During the leave, fathers are compensated at the maternity rate by social security.