Detention and Abuse of Women Seeking Maternal Health Services
The Center for Reproductive Rights fled this case on behalf of two petitioners who were admitted to Pumwani Maternity Hospital—Kenya’s largest public maternity hospital—to deliver their babies and were subsequently detained for their inability to pay the hospital fees. The frst petitioner, Millicent Awuor (Maimuna), gave birth to a baby girl on September 20, 2010. When it was time to be discharged, Maimuna did not have the money to pay the hospital fees. Instead of releasing her pending payment, the hospital staff detained her at the hospital in an overcrowded ward for 24 days; the time it took for her family to gather the necessary funds to pay her bill. During this time, Maimuna gave her bed to her newborn daughter and slept on the ﬂoor next to a ﬂooding toilet, causing her to contract pneumonia. During her detention, she did not receive post-natal care and was mistreated by the nurses. Furthermore, she was constantly worried about her other children, who were at home by themselves. The second petitioner, Margaret Anyoso Oliele, was detained and abused twice at Pumwani while seeking delivery services during different pregnancies. During the first visit, she was supposed to be discharged five days after her Cesarean section, but was instead detained due to an inability to pay her bill in full. For more than a week, she was held at the hospital until her husband was finally able to pull together money to cover her delivery expenses. During a subsequent pregnancy, Margaret arrived at the hospital bleeding, and although she was seen by a doctor, nurses informed her that they would not allocate a bed for her until other patients vacated the beds. Still bleeding, she was left sitting on a bench until her condition worsened to the point that she was rushed into surgery. After undergoing a Cesarean section, she was again detained because she was unable to pay the bill in full. During Margaret’s detention, hospital nurses refused to dress her surgery wounds and would not let her go outside, as they were concerned she would run away. After five days, she was finally released and had to go to a private clinic for treatment for her infected surgical wound. The petition fled by the Center for Reproductive Rights before the High Court claimed that the arbitrary detention, abuse and mistreatment of women seeking Maternal Health and Rightscare services and the lack of accountability mechanisms to address these abuses is in clear violation of the Constitution of Kenya and the international and regional human rights treaties that Kenya has ratified. The petition asserted that the detention of the petitioners was arbitrary, without just cause, contravened due process protections, and violated the petitioners’ rights to fundamental freedom, liberty and freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment. Further, it asserted that the abuse the petitioners experienced constituted discrimination on the basis of gender because only women require health care services for pregnancy and childbirth, and the rights violations have a disparate adverse effect on women’s health. The actions of the hospital staff also violated the petitioners’ rights to the highest attainable standard of health, life, dignity, and access to justice.