NAIROBI (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - A woman who was verbally and physically abused after giving birth on the floor of a state-run hospital in Kenya won a landmark 2.5 million shillings (S$32,900) in damages on Thursday (March 22).
Josephine Majani delivered her baby on the floor of Bungoma District Hospital in 2013 because all the beds were occupied. When nurses found her lying on the ground, she said she was slapped and insulted for dirtying the hospital floor.
Bungoma High Court Judge Abida Ali Aroni said the hospital had violated her right to health and dignity, adding that the authorities have failed to dedicate adequate resources for maternal healthcare across the country.
"I was neglected, abused, and shamed during my time at Bungoma District Hospital," said Majani in a statement.
"I'm hopeful that the court's judgment today will force the government to do the right thing and ensure that all women can get the maternal healthcare they need with respect and dignity."
Kenya is one of the world's 10 most dangerous countries for a woman to give birth, with 488 women dying of pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 live births, says the United Nations.
About 8,000 Kenyan women die from pregnancy-related complications each year, largely due to a lack of funding for maternal health, inadequate training and supervision of health workers, negligence and unethical practices, it says.
Campaigners say there are many cases like Majani's where government hospitals are ill-equipped to provide women with free maternal services and, as a result, deny them quality health care, and sometimes subject them to severe abuse.
The court's decision is historic and should help prevent such abuse in the future, the New York-based the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) said, adding that it would also pressure the government to prioritise maternal care.
"This is a landmark case for Kenyan women," the CRR's Africa director, Evelyne Opondo, said in a statement.
"It sends a very clear message to Kenyan health providers, and to the government ... that neglect of Kenyan women in health care settings will no longer be tolerated - nor will it be without consequences for those responsible."