International Treaties and Conventions Supporting Breastfeeding

Q: What are the international treaties and conventions supporting breastfeeding?


I. International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and its resolutionsIn May 1981, the Code was overwhelmingly approved by the World Health Assembly by 118 votes to 1 including the Philippines. The lone vote against the Code came from the United States of America, which was concerned that the Code could have a detrimental effect on US business.

The Code applies to infant formula, other products marketed or represented as replacements for breastmilk, feeding bottles and teats.

Manufacturers and distributors of these products are subject to the following restrictions and obligations under the Code:

1. No advertising or other forms of promotion to the public.

2. No free samples to mothers (indirect or indirect).

3.No promotion within health care system.

4. No contact between marketing personnel and mothers.

5. No gifts to health workers; samples only under very limited circumstances. Product information for health professionals must be limited to scientific and factual matters.

6. No inclusion of sales volume in calculation of employee bonuses and other sales incentives. Marketing personnel are not to perform educational functions for mothers.

7. No pictures of infants or other pictures or text idealizing the use of infant formula on labels. Labels must clearly state the superiority of breastfeeding, include preparation instructions and include a warning about the health hazards of inappropriate preparation.

8. Unsuitable products such as sweetened condensed milk should not be promoted for infants. All food products must meet applicable standards recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

9. Independently of measures taken to implement the Code, manufacturers and distributors are responsible to monitor their marketing practices according to the principles and aims of the Code and to take steps to ensure that their conduct conforms at every level.This means companies should comply with the Code’s provisions even in countries that do not yet have national legislation or other measures based on the Code. It also means that, as the Code was adopted as a “minimum requirement”, companies must abide by it fully even if national measures are weaker.

II. Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding

In 1989, policy makers from the World Health Organization and UNICEF drew up the Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding. It recommended that various obstacles to breastfeeding “within the health system, the workplace and the wider community” be removed. It also outlined several objectives, including the need for governments to “enact imaginative legislation protecting the breastfeeding rights of working women” (World Health Organization/UNICEF, 1990).

III. International Labour Organization (ILO)

The Philippines is a signatory to all ILO conventions and is an active member thereof

* C 103 Maternity Protection Convention, 1952

Article 5

1. If a woman is nursing her child she shall be entitled to interrupt her work for this purpose at a time or times to be prescribed by national laws or regulations.

2. Interruptions of work for the purpose of nursing are to be counted as working hours and remunerated accordingly in cases in which the matter is governed by or in accordance with laws and regulations; in cases in which the matter is governed by collective agreement, the position shall be as determined by the relevant agreement.

* C 183 Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (Breastfeeding Mother)
Article 10

1. A woman shall be provided with the right to one or more daily breaks or a daily reduction of hours of work to breastfeed her child.

2. The period during which nursing breaks or the reduction of daily hours of work are allowed, their number, the duration, of nursing breaks and the procedures for the reduction of daily hours of work shall be determined by national law and practice. These breaks or the reduction of daily hours of work shall be counted as working time and remunerated accordingly.

* C 156 Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, 1981

Article 1
The provisions of this Convention shall also be applied to men and women workers with responsibilities in relation to other members of their immediate family who clearly need their care or support, where such responsibilities restrict their possibilities of preparing for, entering, participating in or advancing in economic activity.

For the purposes of this Convention, the terms dependent child and other member of the immediate family who clearly needs care or support mean persons defined as such in each country by one of the means referred to in Article 9 of this Convention.

Article 3
With a view to creating effective equality of opportunity and treatment for men and women workers, each Member shall make it an aim of national policy to enable persons with family responsibilities who are engaged or wish to engage in employment to exercise their right to do so without being subject to discrimination and, to the extent possible, without conflict between their employment and family responsibilities.

IV. 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
(Philippines is a signatory)

Article 6
1. states Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life
2. states Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child

Article 18
For the purpose of guaranteeing and promoting the rights set forth in the present Convention, states Parties shall render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and shall ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children.

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that children of working parents have the right to benefit from child-care services and facilities for which they are eligible.

Article 24
States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures:
(b) To ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care;
(d) To ensure appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health care for mothers;
(e) To ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation and the prevention of accidents;
(f) To develop preventive health care, guidance for parents and family planning education and services.

V. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1979).
(Philippines is a signatory to this convention)

  • International bill of rights for women

  • Only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women

  • Targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations

  • Affirm women’s rights to non-discrimination in education, employment and economic and social activities (article 10,11,13)

  • The Convention also devotes major attention to a most vital concern of women, namely their reproductive rights

  • While CEDAW makes no distinct reference to breastfeeding, other than the need for governments to ensure women have adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation” [Article 12], Article 11 states that “State parties shall take appropriate measures to…introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority or social allowances.”

  • Article 5 (b): To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases. Society’s obligation extends to offering social services, especially child-care facilities that allow individuals to combine family responsibilities with work and participation in public life.

  • Article 11.1 (f) The right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction.

  • Article 11.2 In order to prevent discrimination against women on the grounds of marriage or maternity and to ensure their effective right to work, State Parties shall take appropriate measures: (c) To encourage the provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through promoting the establishment and development of a network of child-care facilities.

  • Article 16 (d) The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount.

VI. Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Fourth World Conference on Women (15 September 1995)

  • Preamble: Ensure equal access to and equal treatment of women and men in education and health care and enhance women’s sexual and reproductive health as well as education.

  • Number 107 (r) Promote public information on the benefits of breastfeeding; examine ways and means of implementing fully WHO/UNICEF International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, and enable mothers to breastfeed their infants by providing legal, economic, practical and emotional support.

  • Number 110 (g) Support health service systems and operations research to strengthen access and improve the quality of service delivery, to ensure appropriate support for women as health care providers and t examine patterns with respect to the provision of health services to women and use of such services by women.

  • Design and implement, in cooperation with women and community-based organizations, gender-sensitive health programmes, including decentralized health services, that address the needs of women throughout their lives and take into account their multiple roles and responsibilities, the demands on their time, the special needs of rural women and women with disabilities and the diversity of women’s needs arising from age and socio-economic and cultural differences, among others; include women, especially local and indigenous women, in the identification and planning of health care priorities and programmes; remove all barriers to women’s health services and provide a broad range of health care services.

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