Mothers have raised a red flag over severe physical and verbal abuse during child labour and delivery in public hospitals.
Key manifestations of abuse include pinching, slapping and beating, non-consensual care, non-dignified care, verbal abuse, discrimination towards poor and young mothers, abandonment of women during and after labour and detention because of inability to pay hospital fees.
Mothers who spoke to Rwanda Today called for dignified care that also allows them to easily report abuse by health practitioners.
This is because they find it difficult to get compensation when cases are taken to Rwanda Association of Midwives and nurses. For instance, a thirty-five year-old Scovia Mukamana (not her real name) was slapped by a ward staff at Muhima District Hospital last year.
She reported the case to the Rwanda Association of Midwives (RAM) and the National Council for Nurses and Midwives but up to date, she is yet received justice.
“The poor service provided by nurses and midwives in most public hospitals outlines how the health workers turn what is supposed to be a moment of happiness and high expectation into one of distress and shame for mothers,” says Mukamana.
“Mothers are at times denied the right to have spouses access delivery room which at least would help to curb the mistreatment usually experienced while giving birth,” she said adding “the presence of our spouses would maybe intimidate nurses hence reducing the abuse.”
Rwanda Today has learnt that some nurses openly announce mothers in the ward who are HIV positive and highly abuse the under 18-year-olds for unwanted pregnancies. Fourteen out of 20 women who talked to Rwanda Today said they experienced verbal abuse and abandonment after delivery.
“It confirms that disrespect and abuse in childbirth is a critical but little-discussed subject which is a major barrier in helping increase the number of expectant mothers who seek medical assistance,” says Emanuel Safari, Executive Secretary of Cladho, an umbrella organization of Human Right Activists in Rwanda.
“The biggest problem is that many mothers are unaware that what they go through is a serious human rights violation as well as criminal in nature. There is a need for renewed efforts to improve the expectant mother-healthcare giver relationship,” said Mr Safari.
In an interview, President of Rwanda Midwives Association Josephine Murekezi said, last year district and referral hospitals reported about eight cases of nurses and midwives who had abused women in the child labour.
“We know there are those who still physically and mentally abuse mothers while in child labour but that should stop because whoever goes contrary to the professional ethics will be judged by law and justice granted to the victims,” said Ms Murekezi.
“These days it doesn’t require only a patient to report the abuse but also the hospitals have the mandate to investigate on a doctor or nurse who might wrongly treat or abuse a patient in the due process,” she said.