Gayathiri Bose said she was "humiliated" by the experience
A Singaporean mother was humiliated after she was asked to prove she was lactating at Frankfurt airport.
Gayathiri Bose was told to squeeze her breast at airport security to prove she was lactating. The 33-year-old mother has filed a complaint with German police.
Speaking to the BBC, Bose said she was “humiliated” by the experience. Bose said the Frankfurt Airport police were suspicious of her as she was seen carrying a breast pump without travelling with her baby.
German police have declined to comment but said these measures were “clearly” not part of the airport’s routine procedure .
Bose was traveling alone at the time from Frankfurt to Paris. The Singaporean said that she was taken aside for questioning after her carry-on bag that contained her breast pump went through the X-ray machine.
“[They had] an incredulous tone. ‘You are breastfeeding? Then where is your baby? Your baby is in Singapore?’,” she said.
The Singaporean mother said airport officers did not believe her when she told them the device was a breast pump. The security officers then kept her passport as she was led to a room by a female police officer for further questioning.
According to Bose, the police officer asked her to prove she was lactating.
“She asked me to open up my blouse and show her my breast. She then asked how come I didn’t have anything attached to my breast, if I was lactating and expressing breastmilk,” said Ms Bose.
“And I said, there is no such thing that is [permanently] attached, we usually place the pump to our nipple and the machine does the job.”
“She wanted me to show her by hand-expressing a little.”
Complying, Bose squeezed her breast. “I was just in shock, I was going through the motions. I was all by myself as well, and wasn’t sure what would happen to me if they decided to make trouble for me.”
“It was only when I came out of the room that I began to slowly understand what had just happened. I just started to cry, I was terribly upset.”
Officials then tested and clread the pump before returning her passport to her and allowing her to board the Paris-bound plane.
Bose said the “humiliating” and “very traumatising” incident lasted nearly 45 minutes.
“When they finally cleared me of the matter, I told them that this is not the way to treat someone. I said ‘Do you know what you just did to me, you made me show my breast.’
“The officer just said, ‘Okay it is over now, please go’. She was totally nonchalant, she didn’t seem very remorseful or empathetic.”
Bose is looking to take formal legal action.
“While I do respect the need to do security checks on items that may seem suspicious, to outrage a person’s modesty is definitely crossing the line.”
Spokesman for the German federal police unit at Frankfurt airport, Christian Altenhofen, said he was not able to comment “for reasons of data protection” adding, “If a suspected explosive is detected at an air safety control point, the baggage and the person must be searched.”
“The measures you have described for a breastfeeding mother are clearly not included.”
Ellis Taylor, an aviation expert from Flightglobal said the incident was “pretty ridiculous.”
“This is not normal. There are some people representing authority who do overstep the mark, but that to me sounds unprecedented and quite frankly very humiliating.”
Taylor said usual protocol would involve an X-ray and then a check for traces of explosives. The passenger may also be asked to switch on the breast pump to demonstrate how it works.