By White Ribbon Alliance India’s Tina Ravi
In a world that has normalized disrespect and abuse (D&A) of pregnant women and mothers, WRA India is amplifying the voices of Indian women and girls to create a new culture of respectful care through a multi-pronged campaign that is actively growing a community of mothers who are demanding respectful care.
“So, what if we are scolded or spoken rudely to in the hospital? What else can we expect? After all, these services are free.”
“It’s alright. We don’t really care if we are not treated well. We are poor and it’s not really that different from what we are treated in our own homes.”
Narratives like these speaks volumes about the extent of normalization and acceptance that exists among women in India when it comes to their experience of healthcare services. This level of normalization is not only found among women, but, surprisingly, among the health care providers too, who, often struggling under understaffed and inadequate public healthcare infrastructure, find it absolutely normal to shout, slap or abuse a woman during maternity care services. Disrespect and abuse are often perceived as a way of life and something which must be undergone if one has to avail free healthcare services offered by India’s public health system.
WRA India’s qualitative research on respectful maternity care (RMC) in four states of India has not only highlighted the normalization and acceptance of disrespect and abuse (D&A), but has also found violations under each of the seven domains of D&A — physical abuse, non-consented care, non-confidential care, non-dignified care (including verbal abuse), discrimination based on certain attributes (such as race and religion), abandonment or denial of care, and detention in facilities.
While it is important to improve and strengthen healthcare systems by making public health a priority in the national agenda, it is equally or even more crucial to challenge behaviors and attitudes that fuel D&A. Various studies conducted across the globe has found that a woman’s experience during childbirth influence her decision to visit or not to visit a health facility, not only for maternity care services but also for other healthcare services, too.
WRA India’s #IDemandRespectfulCare campaign aims to do just that by placing respectful care front and center of all conversations surrounding maternal health in India. The campaign is designed to promote respectful care as a basic human right and not a luxury or a bonus that is to be expected by a select few. This campaign calls women to voice out their experiences, speak out and demand for respectful care.
The #IDemandRespectfulCare campaign has been gaining traction on social media through a series of moving videos that delve deep into the Seven Rights of Childbearing Women. Perhaps the most impactful aspect of this campaign has been the online community of mothers who have come together to share the types of maternity stories they’d previously kept hidden out of shame or fear, or simply because they did not know that they deserved better.
#IDemandRespectfulCare lets women voice out their experiences and create a community that is no longer afraid to speak up and demand their rights to quality healthcare. By connecting over the shared experience of disrespectful care, the women of #IDemandRespectfulCare have created a rallying cry for RMC across India.
Please join us in our demand for respectful care. Because each and every voice matters.