n South African Medical Journal - Obstetric violence in South Africa : guest editorial

Volume 106, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Abusive practices in obstetric care settings have been reported in the USA since the 1950s. However, it is only since the 2000s that this issue has been identified as a worldwide health and social problem. The mistreatment of women and girls during childbirth has been documented in a range of global contexts, including high-income countries and middle- to low-income countries. There has recently been growing international attention to this problem, and it has been recognised that abusive treatment is connected to poor uptake of maternity services and poor maternal and infant health outcomes in some settings. For a long time, the importance of respectful and dignified care during labour and childbirth has been a 'blind-spot' in global health agendas, but calls for action and accountability are now becoming difficult to ignore. Current debates and global activism are increasingly drawing on the concept of 'obstetric violence' to contextualise and address patterns of mistreatment of women and girls during labour and childbirth. This editorial introduces this concept and explores its potential relevance in the South African (SA) context.

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