A few months ago, the term “obstetric and gynecological violence” meant nothing to me until I participated in an activity where the issue was discussed.

If, like me, you were unaware of what it entails, let me enlighten you. Obstetric and gynecological violence is a form of violence against women in hospital settings during the provision of sexual, reproductive, and maternal health services. It is a form of violence that has remained hidden for a long time and is still too often ignored. In the privacy of a medical consultation or childbirth, women are victims of violent or perceived violent practices.

These are generally non-consensual acts for which the patient is sometimes not informed in advance. They also involve words, practices, and behaviors performed or omitted by one or more members of the healthcare staff on a patient during gynecological and obstetrical follow-up.

For example, when a young girl goes to the hospital for a gynecological consultation for a sexually transmitted infection and the healthcare provider makes remarks such as: “At your age, what are you doing with STIs? Can’t you abstain a little? You young people today are too spoiled…” Or even when during the consultation, a speculum needs to be used and the patient is not informed in advance and explained how it will happen so that she can prepare herself psychologically, we are facing a case of obstetric and gynecological violence.

This type of violence also includes certain practices by healthcare personnel who do not obtain the consent of the pregnant woman, such as during childbirth or prenatal consultation. For example, this could involve hitting the thighs to encourage the woman to spread her legs or shouting at the pregnant woman in labor if she expresses her pain too much.

It is important that healthcare professionals are adequately trained to ensure respectful, patient-centered care based on consent. It is imperative that medical institutions establish clear protocols and accessible complaint mechanisms to combat these unacceptable practices and ensure the safety and well-being of women during their gynecological and obstetrical care journey.

It is time to break the silence and take concrete measures to end obstetric and gynecological violence so that every woman can access respectful, safe, and empathetic healthcare. Justice for survivors and prevention of such abuses must be at the heart of efforts to create a more equitable and caring healthcare system for all women. No woman or girl should be afraid to go to the hospital because of the violent reception, behavior, or care they may receive there.

Together, let’s stop this degrading evil in our societies and brighten the future of women!

Edéladjo Florence ODJO – Gender Specialist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *