This page sets out the key discussion points from the RCOG’s event to celebrate International Women’s Day 2014. The event focused on human rights awareness in women’s health.
- A woman’s right to life is violated if she is not given access to emergency care which could have saved her life. If women do not have access to medical care after an unsafe abortion, for example, this puts her life at risk which is unacceptable. One person’s judgement on a matter which raises cultural or religious dilemmas can have a cascading effect and ultimately lead to the death of the woman.
- It is important to ensure a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to health care which would improve the human rights considerations of a particular case. The medical team should then change their expectations, deciding what is wholly unacceptable and taking every step to prevent it from occurring, i.e. that a patient dies.
- The status of women in society is a key factor to human rights awareness in women’s health. Many women do not enjoy equal status in society and so this will undoubtedly affect the health care they are given.
- The simple fact remains that, regardless of ethical issues, many women cannot access the right health care because it simply isn’t available to them in their setting. The correct procedures have not been set up or they lack the correct equipment. This is a training issue and an issue of advocacy. Women have the right to access the right services which can provide expert care. The RCOG has a role to play in advocating to ensure no woman need die because the hospital did not have the correct training or equipment in place. It’s also important that health workers have their human rights considered because, if they are not valued, how can we expect them to deliver an expert human rights approach in the care they provide?
- If human rights violations occur frequently in women’s health, it demonstrates that it is a common problem of society. Governments need to learn from this and take active steps to improve the stages before the eventuality of poor human rights in health care manifests itself.
- Education underpins all of the improvement needed to ensure women are afforded the human rights they deserve. Ignorance is a significant barrier to the progress of improvement. If a nurse, for example, cleans a patient after a suspected rape case, this removes all evidence and prevents the perpetrator from being caught. What might seem like a kind and caring act can be a human rights violation. To stop this from happening, health workers need to be educated to understand the implications of all of their actions. This should be done through the involvement of local, influential people who are respected in their community. These people can have a huge influence over the education of families to understand issues such as the rudiments of contraception and the importance of family spacing. Men too need to be educated that a woman has the right to control at what stage in her life she should have children.
- At a higher level, stakeholders and policy makers must ingrain into government policy the necessity of treating patients with respect and dignity. This will be a complete mind-set change in some societies and will seem alien to many. The RCOG, as a global organisation, can go some way to help change attitudes to women’s health care.