The state also violates women’s rights – 03/27/2021 – Latinoamérica21

More than 1,500 km from Buenos Aires, in a remote corner of Argentina’s Chaco in the province of Formosa, more than 80 pregnant women from the indigenous community of Wichi have reported police harassment and forced transfers to isolation centers government agencies to undergo caesarean sections.

The women, allegedly hidden in the bush, reported to the Chamber that after forced Caesarean sections, the women are separated without notice, and for up to 14 days, from their babies who are taken to neonatal centers in hospitals in the provincial capital.

This scandalous denunciation of obstetric violence – violence by health professionals that affects the bodies and reproductive processes of women – was dismissed by the provincial government as a media act by a television channel.

The politicization of the subject and the absence of formal complaints called the complaint into question. However, as in other cases, fear of these and other violent practices often suppresses those affected.

In addition to the specific case of the Wichi group of women, the truth is that in Argentina the number of caesarean sections is 45% of the total number of births, a proportion three times higher than that recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO ). . This demonstrates an abuse of this type of practice by political and health authorities, which is often based on economic motives.

Women’s rights

On March 8, four days before the denunciation, was celebrated International Women’s Day, an annual date on which experts, collectives, organizations and civil society rethink the scope of women’s rights.

And although new conquests are slowly being made in Argentina and Latin America, the truth is that there is still a long way to go to guarantee these rights, including reproductive rights.

Today, while many cases of abuse are kept in the dark, others come to light through reports or in-depth investigations. A few years ago, the Social Research Institute of UNAM in Mexico reported that 4 out of 5 indigenous women suffered abuse, humiliation, ridicule, and psychological, physical and verbal abuse during pregnancy, l childbirth or when seeking health care.

Fujimori and forced sterilization in Peru

Although forced sterilization and mandatory Caesarean sections are becoming less frequent, they have been used in the past by the state in many countries in the region. In Peru, throughout Fujimori’s presidential term, forced sterilization was systematically practiced, a procedure that prevents women from reproducing sexually without their consent.

The reproductive health and family planning program, as the Peruvian state plan became known, was based on the need for women to have access to free birth control. The plan also proposed sexual and reproductive health as a right for women and men. However, the implementation of contraceptive or birth control measures was the sole responsibility of women.

According to the report based on research in the case of involuntary sterilizations carried out in Peru, between 1996 and 2001, 272,028 sterilizations were carried out. 1997 was the year with the highest number of cases with 109,689 sterilizations performed, the majority among indigenous and peasant women without their consent.

The role of the state

What is the relationship between sterilization in Peru and the situation denounced by the Wichí women in Formosa?

Obstetric violence can be interpreted as systematic violence by the state by failing and dismantling maternal health care and women’s rights. This happens when there are omissions, inadequate care, abuse, unnecessary or unwarranted procedures during childbirth and postpartum.

It is a type of direct violence that generally violates the reproductive rights of women belonging to the most vulnerable sectors of society.

In Argentina, there are currently several normative instruments that recognize this violence and the need to respect childbirth. Respected childbirth aims to ensure the full exercise of the woman’s free decision for the process and requires the implementation of less invasive methods.

However, one of the main problems that continue to arise in maternal care is that the essential or backbone of public health programs and policies rests exclusively on the reproductive status of women.

There is an urgent need for maternal care services to also take into account the emotional and physiological needs of women. Most cases of maternal mortality could be avoided if health care services were tailored to the needs of mothers and not to institutional needs.

In any case, these practices end up being a determinant that inhibits the reproductive desires of women or the expectations of their families. This type of state violence, which makes women victims because of their biological condition of pregnancy, goes against its obligation to guarantee respect and access to rights.

Spanish translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima, a plural media engaged in the dissemination of critical and truthful information on Latin America

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