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Dubravka Šimonović presented her report on violence against women

Dubravka Šimonoviæ, Special Rapporteur on violence against women present his report after her missions to Argentina, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory at a 35th Session of the Human Rights Council. 12 June 2017. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

The UN General Assembly, 4. 10. 2019

On Friday October 4th, 2019, Dubravka Šimonović, the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on violence against women, its causes and consequences, presented her report on human rights approach to mistreatment and violence against women in reproductive health services with a focus on childbirth and obstetric violence. The report describes current manifestations of violence and other mistreatment of women during providing obstetric care in healthcare facilities all over the world. It addresses States with recommendations how to effectively solve system problems in this field. The report was submitted to the Human Rights Council pursuant to General Assembly resolution 71/170. It was presented and discussed at the 74th session of the UN Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).

The report particularly focuses on the obstetric violence also related to women from diverse minorities or facing various handicaps, including Roma women, women with health handicaps and those with a lower socio-economical status. Many of the issues and shortcomings being addressed by the report are present on a long-term basis also in Slovakia.

It deals with various forms of violence and other violation of women´s right during delivery which were documented by non-governmental organisations in Slovakia last years, e. g. restricting of movement of delivering women and their tying to beds, pressure on the belly of birthing women, episiotomy without medical reasons or suturing of birth injuries without anaesthesia, etc. Further, it deals with violation of privacy of women, abuse, humiliation and intimidation of women by medical personnel, restriction of their right to personal integrity and free decision-making on the delivery progress, etc.

Dubravka Šimonović noted in her report that a new system‑wide global approach is necessary to eliminate violence against women and girls. The responsibility to address this lies with States, she said, cautioning that they cannot duck the issue under the pretext of economic, cultural or religious considerations. She also called for the institutional establishment of the Platform of United Nations regional independent women’s human rights mechanisms on the elimination of violence against women. This body, which she initiated in 2017, brings together representatives of seven such mechanisms aiming to enhance cooperation.

The Special Rapporteur went on to stress that women are subjected to mistreatment and violence even during the most delicate moments of their lives, drawing attention to various types of abuse that women experience during facility‑based childbirth. Violence against women during childbirth is not a sporadic episode, but, rather, part of a continuum of gender‑based violence occurring in the wider context of structural inequality, discrimination and patriarchy. In her report, she addresses the root causes of these forms of violence, condemning normalization of the abuse.

She recommended that States uphold their rights obligations, which cannot be undermined, including on economic, cultural or religious grounds. She further recommended that States develop appropriate human-rights‑based laws and national reproductive health strategies and conduct independent investigations into women’s allegations of gender‑based violence. States cannot escape their responsibility to address violations committed by health institutions, she asserted. They should establish rights‑based accountability mechanisms, as well as a femicide watch or a “gender‑related killing of women watch”.

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