President's daughter responds to critics after breastfeeding photo goes viral

'This body I've been given is not vulgar, it is functional' says Aliya Shagieva

Charlotte Beale
Sunday 30 July 2017 16:58 BST
The 20-year-old daughter of the Kyrgyz president was criticised for posting a photo of herself breastfeeding online.
The 20-year-old daughter of the Kyrgyz president was criticised for posting a photo of herself breastfeeding online.

Aliya Shagieva, the youngest daughter of the president of Kyrgyztan, has spoken out after she criticised for posting a picture on social media of herself breastfeeding,

Taken from above her, Ms Shagieva appeared near naked in the image as she fed her one-month-old son Tagir.

Posted on Instagram in April, it ran alongside the caption: "I will feed my child whenever and wherever he needs to be fed."

But after she was attacked on social media and accused of "immoral behaviour", she took the image down.

In an interview with the BBC, Ms Shagieva said a culture which over-sexualises the female body caused the outrage, rather than the image itself.

"This body I've been given is not vulgar, it is functional,” said the 20-year-old artist. "Its purpose is to fulfil the physiological needs of my baby, not to be sexualised."

"When I'm breastfeeding my child, I feel like I'm giving him the best I can give. Taking care of my baby and attending to his needs is more important to me than what people say about me."

Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, has a socially conservative, majority Muslim society.

President Almazbek Atambayev and his wife Raisa disapproved of their daughter’s picture, Ms Shagieva said.

"They really didn't like it. And it is understandable because the younger generation is less conservative than their parents. My mum received messages from her 'friends' about me.”

Ms Shagieva is known for her progressive behaviour. She gave birth to son six-months after her marriage to Russian husband Konstantin.

The young family live as vegetarians in a traditionally meat-eating country.

Ms Shagieva frequently posts images of her and her son on Instagram.

Breastfeeding in public is a matter of debate across the world.

Former Australian senator Larissa Waters was praised when she breastfed her baby in parliament in May.

"It's frankly ridiculous, really, that feeding one's baby is international news”, Ms Waters said at the time. “Women have been breastfeeding for as long as time immemorial.

"I had hoped to not only be able to feed my baby but to send a message to young women that they belong in the parliament."

There have been calls to allow breastfeeding in the House of Commons, after a 2016 independent review recommended it.

It is illegal in the UK to ask a breastfeeding woman to leave a public place, such as a café, park or public transport.

However, breastfeeding rates in the UK are among the lowest in the world, according to a 2016 study in The Lancet.

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