Public hospitals leading in Obstetric Violence against women- Report

Medium-shot of a pregnant woman. [iStock]

Eighty-three percent of women across the country have encountered Obstetric Violence (OBV), a new survey has shown.

The survey conducted by Change Leaders from the Nguvu Collective reveals that out of the 189 women interviewed from 27 counties, 55 per cent had experienced OBV during childbirth.

The survey, titled 'Towards Ending OBV in Kenya: Unveiling the Invisible Wounds of Obstetric Violence Through the Voices of Kenyan Women,' interviewed 189 women from 27 counties across seven regions between February and March 2024.

The report highlights that 55 percent of respondents experienced OBV during childbirth. Notably, 11 percent of those surveyed were women with disabilities.

Among those who experienced OBV, 46 percent were aged between 25 and 34, and 51 percent hailed from low-income or below-the-poverty-line households.

Forms of OBV

The most common forms of OBV reported were psychological and emotional abuse, with 62 percent of respondents encountering disregard of needs, verbal abuse, humiliation, and discrimination.

Additionally, 28 percent experienced medical neglect and unnecessary interventions, while 10 percent faced physical violence and coercion.

The report emphasizes that OBV incidents are not confined to labor and delivery, with 27 percent occurring during pregnancy and 14 percent during the postpartum period.

Furthermore, the survey notes that the period from 2018 to 2021, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, saw a significant increase in OBV incidents due to disruptions in healthcare services and increased stress on healthcare workers.

Regarding healthcare settings, 59 percent of OBV incidents occurred in public hospitals, while 16 percent were reported in private hospitals. OBV was also documented in health centers, maternity clinics, and mission/faith-based hospitals.

Perpetrators of OBV

The report identifies nurses as the primary perpetrators of OBV (51 percent), followed by doctors/obstetricians/gynecologists (25 percent) and support/non-clinical staff (19 percent).

The impact of OBV on maternal, infant, and child health is profound, with 68 percent of incidents constituting gross human rights violations. Nine percent resulted in infant deaths, and 13 percent had long-term negative effects on child health and development.

Shockingly, 94 percent of respondents did not report their OBV experiences due to fear of inaction (32 percent), retaliation (35 percent), or lack of confidence in the reporting process (26 percent).

Ajra Mohamed, Partnerships Specialist at Nguvu Collective, emphasized the urgent need for change in maternal healthcare policies and practices, stressing that every woman has the right to be treated with dignity.

The report underscores the imperative of addressing OBV in Kenya's healthcare system to safeguard the well-being and rights of women and children.