Last week, news broke of a pregnant woman who was turned away from a public hospital and as a result lost her baby due to the delay in getting medical attention.
While this woman’s story sparked national outrage, the mistreatment of pregnant women seeking maternal health care is a common occurrence throughout Kenya, which is only exacerbated by the current doctors’ strike.
This woman was denied medical attention at Pumwani Maternity Hospital, Nairobi, a facility that has been in the news previously for the mistreatment of women.
In 2012, two women, Margaret and Maimuna, were illegally detained at the hospital for their inability to pay their hospital bills. They were subjected to physical, mental and verbal abuse. Both women sued the hospital and the government for human rights violations. As a result, in 2015, the High Court of Kenya ordered the Ministry of Health to stop the discrimination and abuse experienced by women in public hospitals, and Nairobi County to compensate Margaret and Maimuna for the violation of their rights.
Margaret and Maimuna represent scores of women across the country, but most of them are never able to access justice for violations of their rights.
The Constitution states that every person has a right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes reproductive health services. And even though President Uhuru Kenyatta mandated that public health facilities provide free, universal maternal health services in 2013, pregnant women are still routinely denied admission.