Female Kenyan lawmaker ejected after bringing her baby into Parliament

Zuleika Hassan said she brought her 5-month-old to work because of a domestic emergency, and because there is no child care in the legislative building.

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By Alexander Smith

A Kenyan lawmaker has been ejected from the country's Parliament after prompting an uproar when she brought her baby into the chamber.

Zuleika Hassan said she brought her 5-month-old to work Wednesday because of a domestic emergency, and lamented the lack of day care in the legislative building.

"I have tried really hard not to come with the baby, but today I had an emergency, so what was I supposed to do?" Hassan told reporters afterward. "If Parliament had a nursery or a creche, I would be able to put my baby there."

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Under Kenya's laws, the parliamentary speaker is entitled to remove anyone classed as a "stranger" — essentially anyone who isn't a lawmaker or an officer of Parliament — even if they are a child.

"As much as she might want to take care of her child, this is not the place for it," Speaker Christopher Omulele told Hassan. "She may return to the chamber after she withdraws the child."

This created an outcry on the floor of the National Assembly, which is the lower house in the capital, Nairobi. Lawmakers and staff erupted in heated arguments and finger pointing. Several female lawmakers appeared to come to Hassan's defense and helped her carry the baby outside.

"The Honorable Zuleika, you must get out of the House immediately!" the speaker shouted above the commotion.

In 2013 Kenyan lawmakers passed a bill requiring Parliament to put aside a room for breastfeeding mothers, but six years later this has not happened, according to the Daily Nation, Kenya's most popular newspaper.

House Majority Leader Aden Duale was among those who criticized Hassan.

"She must be told, you are not the only parent. ... All of us have children," he said. "This is an abuse of the House and that member must be cited for gross misconduct. We must protect the dignity of the House."

He said Hassan "has shamed the people of Kwale," referring to the area in southeastern Kenya she represents.