Institutions Join Forces to Ensure Violence-Free Healthcare
High specialty hospitals and health institutes committed to prevent violence and harassment against women and to punish perpetrators. In conjunction with INMUJERES, these healthcare institutions signed the Statement Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harassment to ensure that women have a violence-free experience as both employees and users of these facilities.
“Normalization is the worst enemy because it has a veil that does not let us see the subtleties of violence,” says Nadine Gasman, Head, Coordinating Commission of the National Institutes of Health and High Specialty Hospitals (CCINSHAE).
Hierarchical structures and labor environments dominated by men contribute to perpetrate gender-based violence in the medical field, according to Gasman. It is urgent to ensure the creation of safe and healthy work environments for all health professionals, as it is common for women in the field to be victims of sexual harassment and other aggressions.
Within the medial practice, reports from sexual harassment from doctors to nurses or students are the most common ones. For example, the Annual Report on Complaints of Sexual Harassment in the State Public Administration of Chiapas highlights that between February 2021 and March 2022 there were 21 sexual harassment complaints reported at health facilities. Most of the victims were nurses or female doctors that were doing their social services, while aggressors were mainly male doctors.
The gender-based violence embedded in the Mexican health system also affects patients. For example, obstetric violence is an unfortunately common practice in Mexico’s public and private health sectors. More than one third of women in the country have experienced this type of gender violence, as reported by MBN. Physical and verbal aggressions are part of this type of violence, as is the unjustified practice of C-sections, as reported by INSP.
In recent years, efforts have been made to increase healthcare coverage in Mexico to reduce maternal mortality, but the quality of attention has not increased. An estimated 33.4% percent of Mexican women have suffered mistreatment during childbirth, according to INEGI's 2016 National Survey of Household Relations (ENDIREH). After childbirth, 9.2% of patients were pressured to accept a contraceptive method and 4.2% had one placed or were even permanently sterilized without consent. In the time since, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened childbirth practices worldwide, increasing unnecessary restrictions and interventions during labor.
Gender ought to be a fundamental factor in shaping health systems, reads an article from The Lancet. Intersectionality also plays a relevant role because gender power dynamics interact with other power hierarchies of privilege or disadvantage that can result in different health outcomes for different people, according to WHO. For example, between 2012 and 2018, 55% of non-indigenous women enjoyed an effective coverage of maternal attention compared to 41% of indigenous women. A significant part of this gap can be linked to the structural discrimination that Mexican women suffer during pregnancy and birth, according to ENSANUT.
Ensuring access to health services to women is a global priority. The SDG3 aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages by 2030. “States have obligations to respect, protect and fulfill rights related to women’s sexual and reproductive health,” says the OHCHR. Health is a human right interdependent from the enjoyment of all the other rights. Different mechanisms guarantee Mexican women their right to health on an equality framework such as the General Health Law, Official Mexican Health Norms and the Mexican Constitution, among others.