Reader Kristina in Bulgaria alerted me in November to a protest that was to be held on November 25, 2009 on the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. A group of women and mothers heard the story of a particularly violent and abusive birth and decided that they would not rest until something was done. They wrote on the “Who Are We?” page of their blog:
We wanted to say, that we know and have personally experienced the conduct and treatment which is now standard practice in our hospitals, and no matter how accepted it is in our society, every violence directed at woman in labour, is a crime and absolutely unacceptable. We don’t say this as members of a lifeless legal entity, but as human beings.
Domestic and institutional violence in Bulgaria is currently in the international spotlight, with charitable foundations like Macedonia campaigning for awareness of the nearly one million registered cases of domestic violence and Vice Minister of Labor and Social Policy Ivanka Hristova announcing in December 2009 that one in four Bulgarian women are abused.
The women planned the protest, which several Bulgarian newspapers reported drew 50 protesters on November 25, 2009, in response to the following experience of a woman who labored at St. Sofia Hospital.
After her legal refusal to sign the informed consent as presented the attitude of the staff towards her quickly became rude, threatening and coersive. Later on she was physically handled and restrained in the lithotomy position against her will and stitched without anaesthetic „as punishment“. Each of this actions in direct violation of her rights as a patient and her fundamental human rights.
Read her full story. Note: This story and the other stories linked are potentially triggering to those with birth trauma.
Other women came forward to share their heartwrenching stories, a few of which were translated into English.
The women that organized the protest claim that there is plenty of evidence provided by women on a popular Bulgarian parenting blog to show that these practices are commonplace and have posted an online petition on Say No to Violence with the following call to action:
The rights of the birthing women as a patient have long been ignored in our hospitals by the medical personnel. Disrespectful treatment towards women while they give birth has become a common practice and even accepted as the norm in our society. It is inexcusable and criminal.