Kenyan parliamentarians are protesting a decision by the temporary speaker of parliament’s lower house to eject their colleague who was holding her young child during a session of the legislature.

Zuleikha Hassan was asked to leave the floor of the National Assembly on Wednesday with her five-month-old baby.

The Kenyan House was discussing a resolution on a border dispute with neighbouring Somalia on Wednesday when Hassan walked into the chamber.

The session was interrupted for 15 minutes while she was removed, the local Star newspaper reported.

The mother of three said she had to bring the baby to parliament because she was not able to make other arrangements and did not want to miss work.

Parliament speaker Christopher Omulele, however, dismissed the motive and described her move as “unprecedented” and instructed she be removed.

“As much as she might want to take care of her child, this is not the place for it,” said Omulele.

The decision sparked a heated debate in parliament as she was forced to leave the chamber.

Several MPs walked out of parliament to protest her removal, which, coincidentally, happened during the World Breastfeeding Week.

“Now as we ask for more women to come into parliament, you need to provide a family-friendly atmosphere,” Hassan told reporters outside.

Hassan found support from some colleagues with one male MP suggesting that an area be allocated for breastfeeding.

“If you are a member of parliament who is breastfeeding, in the best interest of that child, the child cannot be separated from you when you are in the course of your duty in the assembly,” said Homa Bay town MP Peter Kaluma.

Majority leader Aden Duale, however, dismissed the argument and said Hassan was “out of order”, saying her action amounted to “gross misconduct”.

“We must protect the dignity of the house,” he said.

In 2007, a bill was passed stating that Kenyan employers should provide a dedicated area for mothers to change and breastfeed their babies.


-Al Jazeera