50.50: Investigation

How has COVID-19 affected women's rights during childbirth? Help us track this globally

Since the pandemic started, we've been documenting cases of abuse and mistreatment of women in labour around the world. Explore our findings – and help add to them.

Ani Hovhannisyan Arya Karijo
16 July 2020, 12.01am
Around the world women say they've had to give birth 'alone', without support from partners, friends and relatives, because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Inge Snip

openDemocracy has been tracking how COVID-19 has impacted women’s rights during childbirth since the pandemic was declared in March.

The data visualised below displays cases we have identified in 45 countries, of women being denied essential services or being treated in ways that breach World Health Organization (WHO) guidance. Explore the map (click on each dot for details of that case) or download the dataset.

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These cases involve dozens of women from Europe, Latin America and Africa who told openDemocracy directly about their experiences of being separated from their newborns and denied birth companions, appropriate pain relief, clear communication and respectful treatment.

Other cases were identified from local media and civil society reporting, by our international Tracking the Backlash team of investigative journalists who monitor threats to women’s and LGBTIQ rights around the world.

This week, top doctors, human rights lawyers and policymakers called for urgent government action in response to this “shocking and disturbing” evidence. It shows how international guidance, as well as national policies and laws to protect women giving birth, are not working on the ground.

But the abuse of women’s rights while giving birth is also a problem that predates the pandemic. And COVID-19 is not over. There is no international observatory tracking these issues – so our team will continue to monitor them. And we need your help to do this around the world.

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