Addressing Disrespect and Abuse in Maternal Health Care Facilities in Kenya

01.22.2021

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The Center for Reproductive Rights secured a win in two landmark cases that sought to hold the government of Kenya accountable for the detention, disrespect and abuse of women seeking maternal health services in public health care facilities.

In 2015, the High Court of Kenya held that the detention of Maimuna and Margaret (petitioners) in Pumwani Maternity Hospital—the largest public maternity hospital—for failing to pay their treatment fees was unconstitutional and amounted to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and a violation of their right to freedom of movement. The mistreatment of the petitioners by the hospital staff, including the denial of emergency medical services, was found to have violated their rights to health, dignity, equality and non-discrimination and freedom from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

In 2018, the High Court of Bungoma made a similar finding in the case of Josephine, who was physically and verbally abused by hospital staff and deliberately left to deliver on the floor at Bungoma County hospital. The Court held that Bungoma County Hospital, the Bungoma County government and the Cabinet Secretary violated Josephine’s human rights under Kenya’s Constitution and international law, and ordered the government to implement policy measures to monitor the quality of maternal health services in health care facilities.  

These cases culminated from the work the Center's Africa program undertook over many years to document the systematic and widespread problems within the Kenyan health care system, and advocate for the implementation of the Constitutional guarantees to protect women’s right to access quality reproductive health services.

While in 2013 the President issued a directive abolishing all maternity service fees, the government is yet to implement additional measures to ensure the sustainability of the directive. The Center will continue to advocate for the full implementation of the High Courts’ decisions, including the training of health care providers and administrators on patients’ right to enable them to provide quality and respectful care.

Report: Detention and Abuse of Women Seeking Maternal Health Services: Fundamental Rights Violation