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Indonesia Health Law #36: Prevent Breastfeeding=One Year in Jail & $11,200 Fine

Posted Oct 26 2010 12:00am

It just may be that Indonesia has the strongest breastfeeding laws on the planet (or is drafting them).

We’ve reported on this law before, in regards to Gisele’s comments , and the potential legal consequence for mothers who choose not to breastfeed.

The Jakarta Post reports:

Not surprising, when annual sales of formula milk worldwide are US$11 billion (in 2002), formula companies will protect their turf and profits tooth and claw.

At the moment, a draft government regulation (RPP) is being prepared for the implementation of Health Law No. 36 which was passed last year. Article 128 of the law stipulates that “every baby has the right to receive exclusive mother’s milk from the time of birth for six months, unless there is a contrary medical indication”. The law states also that anyone intentionally trying to prevent a mother from breastfeeding, could face a fine of Rp 100 million (about US$11,200) or a year in the slammer. Certainly looks like the government means business, doesn’t it?

The law is aimed at doctors, hospitals, clinics and perhaps husbands (who might be afraid that lactating might cause his lovely wife’s breasts to sag), who prevent the mother from breastfeeding.

Indonesian mothers who give birth in hospitals are presented with same pressures seen worldwide by formula companies, despite a formal mandate by the government (which carries no sanctions):

Back in 1997 there was a Health Ministry Decree which prohibited hospitals from becoming a “market” for formula milk; despite this, many hospitals still do it anyway through a soft-sell approach (giving out formula “gift packages”), by “terror” tactics (that breast milk is not enough), usurpation (feeding the baby formula unbeknownst to the mother), lies (that formula is better), or outright pressure.

In hospitals, “Breast is Best” posters jostle with infant formula ads. Guess which gets heeded and which is ignored?

It is feared Article 128 of Health Law # 36 will fall under similar fate as the formula decree, given the Indonesian government’s lack of financial resources. Even as a token gesture, the message is clear that breast is best.  If such a law existed in the US, perhaps women would no longer be asked to leave restaurants for breastfeeding .

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