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Report on a human-rights based approach to mistreatment and obstetric violence during childbirth

Issued by

Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls


11 July 2019


Mistreatment and violence against women during reproductive health care and facility-based child birth is a serious violation of women’s human rights which occurs across all geographical and income-level settings1. In a statement published in 2014, the World Health Organization reported that disrespectful and abusive treatment occurs during childbirth in facilities and includes "outright physical abuse, profound humiliation and verbal abuse, coercive or unconsented medical procedures (including sterilization), lack of confidentiality, failure to get fully informed consent, refusal to give pain medication, gross violations of privacy, refusal of admission to health facilities, neglecting women during childbirth to suffer life-threatening, avoidable complications, and detention of women and their newborns in facilities after childbirth due to an inability to pay."2

International human rights bodies and experts have addressed some of the types of mistreatment and violence, however, they have focused on a limited number of issues and their analysis of those issues has largely failed to take into account the broader context in which mistreatment and violence occur. 


In the present report, the Special Rapporteur analyses the issue of mistreatment and violence against women in reproductive health services with a focus on childbirth and obstetric violence. She looks as the root causes and structural issues that need to be addressed to combat such forms of mistreatment and violence. Recommendations to States and other stakeholders include, for example:

  • adopting appropriate laws to combat and prevent mistreatment against women during childbirth and to prosecute perpetrators and provide reparations and compensation to victims;
  • that States address the problem from a human rights perspective, and conduct an independent investigation into women’s allegations of mistreatment and gender-based violence in health-care facilities; and
  • ensuring health systems have the necessary budgetary resources to provide quality, accessible reproductive and maternal healthcare, thus ensuring that women’s reproductive health needs and interests are met.

Read all conclusions and recommendations in the report on mistreatment and violence experienced by women in facility-based childbirth.

Inputs Received
Inputs Received


1. Bohren MA et al., The Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth in Health Facilities Globally: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review

2. World Health Organization, statement on “prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth.