#InterOvo2016: Our first meeting
On Saturday 5th March 2016, the first online international meeting of Obstetric Violence Watchdog Organizations was held online with representatives of various European and Latin American countries.
Mothers, professionals and activists from Spain, UK, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and France took part in the event, sharing information and data collected by each of them.
The result of this joint work was InterOvo2016 statement, which can be read here
This meeting was promoted by the Spanish Watchdog organization of obstetric violence (OVO), created in November 2014 and dependent of the association El Parto es Nuestro. This institution is defined in its framework document as "a multidisciplinary organization that is born from the need to publicly denounce the incidence of practices that constitute this type of violence, which are not only against women, but also against those around them and health professionals dedicated to the care of women at all stages of motherhood. " At present the Spanish OVO is working on a project of creation and development of three committees:
1) Research Committee: Responsible for collecting statistical data from different practices in childbirth in private and public hospitals.
2) Communication Committee: This workgroup collects testimonials from mothers and professionals, writes articles and posts on obstetric violence on social networks and El Parto es Nuestro's blog, provides information on this topic to research teams and media and is in contact with other organizations such as the CEDAW Spain Platform (Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women).
3) Education Committee: It prepares awareness programs about obstetric violence for health professionals working in perinatal care.
Also OVO Spain has contacted a researcher and the two Colombian associations (Mujeres Bachué and Corporación Curar País) who founded OVO Colombia a few months ago. This OVO is currently in the startup phase of research, which seeks to determine which hospitals and clinics are complying with WHO recommendations to contribute to statistical analysis and make a report at the end of the year.
Traditionally there has been a very high rate of home births for cultural reasons, but the traditional midwifery practiced in Colombia is being compromised by the new practice in which the process of birth is medicalized with invasive techniques such as lithotomy, episiotomy and others. That is why they need to collect data from midwives and hospitals to get a real picture of what is happening in home births.
Meanwhile, members of Las Casildas, which have founded OVO Argentina, stressed that, at the legal level, Argentina is a country with many tools, but this fact is not reflected in practice.
There is Law 25,929 for Humanized Childbirth and Law 26.485 on Integral Protection of Women, in which obstetric violence is tipified, and there are even denouncing mechanisms for this, in addition to the National Law 26,529 of Patients´Rights, which supports the presentation of birth plans.
However it has been found that evidence still talks about obsolete and medicalized practices such as lithotomy, Kristeller, episiotomy, high rate of Caesarean sections and frequent verbal and physical abuse, left in limbo in the absence of official statistical data.
In fact, despite the existence of mechanisms for reporting obstetric violence for several years, there has been a very low number of complaints (until October last year only about 19 were estimated) and only 0.2% of calls to line 144 of Attention to Women Victims of violence are referred to obstetric violence.
Hence the need for the creation of OVO Argentina arises, in order to get real information on this type of gender violence. To do so, a first tool was launched: a survey that can be completed online or on paper. The subsequent report will be presented in October this year. To achieve the lowest possible survey bias and greater representation, a national network was created with delegates in the different provinces of Argentina. Preliminary results are dramatic.
On the other hand, this OVO also includes legal advice, monitoring complaints and an action protocol in cases of obstetric violence currently happening.
OVO Chile was created at the end of 2014 and among the objectives for this 2016 are to promote and resume the discussion on a draft law guaranteeing the rights of women in childbirth.
They are also engaged in a discussion that has taken national interest regarding the high rate of Caesarean sections in the country, reaching 50% of total births. They want to denounce the unsustainable rates of 40% rates in public institutions and 70-80 % in private ones.
They also intend to make a similar report to that of Argentina or Mexico Gire Association.
They also denounce the objectification of women with retrograde laws that may even lead to jailing a woman for an abortion. Chile is one of the few countries in the world where abortion is still punishable by jail.
The representative of France explains the fight of independent midwives in that country these last years. They are prohibited from assisting homebirths or at birthing houses and lack liability insurance. This leads sometimes pregnant women to give birth without assistance in their own homes ...
Consequently, they have created a union of independent midwives from which emerges the Watchdog organization of obstetric violence in this country.
OVO France has two official pages on Facebook where news and testimonials are published. Currently they have collected information on 2100 women and try to make a report for CEDAW to be published in July.
All these organizations collaborate with professionals from different fields related to maternity and health and are governed by the principles of impartiality, dialogue with other institutions and confidentiality of the received testimonies.
Finally we need to state that obstetric violence is now a serious global public health problem that threatens the biopsychosocial welfare of mothers and babies, about which the World Health Organization warned in a document dated 30th September 2014. Furthermore, the Declaration of Experts on Human Rights of the United Nations dated 24th September 2015 refers to the frequent violation of informed consent in the field of sexual and reproductive health.
The purpose of networking, contacting with other associations and publicizing our activism is to improve healthcare during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.
Initiatives such as this meeting represent a turning point to globalize the fight against obstetric violence, which, as we have seen in this first international experience, is a problem that transcends all borders.
Original text by Azucena Manzanares
Translation by Amparo Mora
April 2016 update:
OVO Italia has recently joined InterOvo.
Peru, El Salvador and Mexico have shown interest in joining soon.