Congratulations and thanks to Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, for presenting her groundbreaking report, “A human rights-based approach to mistreatment and violence against women in reproductive health services, with a focus on childbirth and obstetric violence,” to the UN General Assembly on July 11, 2019 23-page report online.
Many thanks to legal scholars Alisha Bjerregaard and Christina Zampas, who summarized this report for the Reprohealthlaw Commentaries Series. We are pleased to excerpt certain paragraphs:
“UN Rapporteur denounces abuses against women during childbirth,” by Alisha Bjerregaard and Christina Zampas, Reprohealthlaw Commentaries Series, October 31, 2019. The full text is online here
” [ . . . This] first U.N. report of its kind . . . addresses human rights abuses experienced by women during facility-based childbirth “as part of a continuum of the violations that occur in the wider context of structural inequality, discrimination and patriarchy.” The report states unequivocally that: “Women’s human rights include their right to receive dignified and respectful reproductive health-care services and obstetric care, free from discrimination and any violence, including sexism and psychological violence, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and coercion.”
“Human rights violations addressed in the report include: physical and verbal abuse; over-medicalization, including the overuse of caesarian delivery, episiotomy and oxytocin when not medically justified; symphysiotomy; forced sterilization; forced abortion; shackling of women; failure to respect privacy and confidentiality; procedures without anesthesia; a lack of autonomy and decision-making; and the post-childbirth detention of women for inability to pay their hospital bills. This list is not exhaustive, the report notes, nor does it include violations outside healthcare facilities. [ . . . ]
“By shedding light on the rights violations experienced by women during facility-based childbirth, and the drivers of this mistreatment and violence, we hope that this report spurs states to prevent and redress these abuses. We also hope that human rights bodies engage in robust analyses of abuses that women experience during childbirth, the context in which they occur, and the inherent discrimination of these practices, as well as the intersectional nature of the discrimination that many women face.”
The full text is online here
(Cite as:) Alisha Bjerregaard and Christina Zampas, “UN Rapporteur denounces abuses against women during childbirth,” Reprohealthlaw Blog Commentaries Series, October 28, 2019.
UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (Dubravka Šimonović), “A human rights-based approach to mistreatment and violence against women in reproductive health services, with a focus on childbirth and obstetric violence.” U.N. Doc. A/74/137, 11 July 2019. 23-page Special Rapporteur report.
FIGO Guidelines emphasized in the report:
“Guidelines Regarding Informed Consent” (Lyon, June 2007) FIGO Ethical Guidelines pp 22-24. provides human rights standards to protect the autonomy and agency of women.
“Harmful stereotyping of women in health care” FIGO’s Ethical Guidelines (pp. 40-43) is recommended as a key resource for providers.
World Health Organization. The prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during facility-based childbirth (Geneva, WHO, 2015) 4-page WHO statement.
WHO Recommendations. Intrapartum Care for a Positive Birth Experience. (Geneva: WHO, 2018) 210-page WHO report.
Compiled by: the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at utoronto.ca. See Program website for our Publications, Information resources, and Reprohealthlaw Commentaries Series. TO JOIN THE REPROHEALTHLAW BLOG: enter your email address in the upper right corner of our blog, then check your email to confirm the subscription.