ZAGREB, February 25, 2019 – After the Roda nongovernmental organisation in November 2018 reported violations of women’s reproductive rights to UN human rights bodies, based on testimonies collected in a campaign focusing on women’s negative hospital treatment experiences, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights asked Croatia to urgently take action to prevent violation of women’s sexual and reproductive rights.
“We are appalled by the testimonies given by women, following the launch of the campaign #BreakTheSilence in October 2018, which showed a pattern of abuse and violence against women undertaking medical procedures related to their reproductive health,” reads a statement by a group of experts released on the website of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights.
Noting that the violence ranged from surgical treatments carried out without anaesthesia to humiliation, verbal abuse and the refusal to give painkilling medication, the experts say that Croatia should adopt measures to prevent violence and insist on the accountability of those who commit it.
“We are deeply concerned about women being subjected to painful treatments without anaesthesia, including surgical miscarriage procedures, uterine scrapes, removal of placenta, stitching after birth, episiotomies being conducted against their will and disrespectful treatment of women by health personnel,” the experts stress.
They note that in spite of the testimonies, some politicians and heads of health institutions have denied the allegations, questioning the credibility of the women’s stories and their perception of pain. At times, even women’s intelligence was questioned.
“A woman who is receiving reproductive health care, including giving birth, accessing medically assisted reproduction services and undergoing surgical miscarriage procedures, must have her rights respected.
“Health personnel should apply the highest standards of professionalism and ethical codes in delivering reproductive health care, and they must respect the dignity, privacy, autonomy, integrity and security of women,” the experts emphasize.
“We encourage the Government of Croatia to conduct an independent investigation into those allegations, to publish its results and to elaborate a national action plan for women’s health,” the experts conclude.
During the campaign BreakTheSilence, in only two and a half days, activists collected more than 400 testimonies of women who have experienced some kind of violence and abuse in Croatian hospitals during gynaecological procedures.
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