Healthcare fails South African women
Summary of story from Mail & Guardian, December 20, 2011
Pregnant women and new mothers in South Africa are abused regularly by health workers, especially nurses, who are supposed to provide them with care, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The abuse includes ridiculing or ignoring women’s needs when in pain, unnecessary delays in providing treatment, leaving women to deliver their babies unaided, accusing women of wanting to harm their babies, verbal insults and degrading treatment, such as asking women to clean up their own blood, or intimidation and threats of harm.
Physical abuse involved slapping, pinching, rough treatment and a deliberate refusal to give pain-relieving medication.
Sadly, these are by no means the only forms of violence committed against women in South Africa’s health institutions.
Research into other reproductive health services, including abortion and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, as well as general research about healthcare, shows that violence and indifference by health workers is a widespread and long-standing problem that continues to obstruct access to healthcare.
The South African department of health has noted that violence is one of four elements in a “quadruple burden of disease” facing the healthcare system.
South Africa also has one of the world’s highest incidences of violence, including rape and domestic violence, against women.
A study by Interpol estimates that, in South Africa, a woman is raped every 17 seconds and one in four South African women suffers domestic violence.