Journal of Biosocial Science 52 (4):610-628 (2020)

The term ‘obstetric violence’ has been used to describe the mistreatment, disrespect and abuse or dehumanized care of women during childbirth by health care providers. This is a review of the existing literature in India on violence against women during childbirth. The review used the typology of Bohren et al.. An internet search of PubMed, Google Scholar and JSTOR was conducted using the terms ‘obstetric violence’, ‘mistreatment’, ‘disrespect and abuse’ and ‘dehumanized care’. Studies based on empirical research on women’s experiences during childbirth in health facilities in India were included in the review. The search yielded sixteen studies: one case study, two ethnographic studies, two mixed-methods studies, three cross-sectional qualitative studies, seven cross-sectional quantitative studies and one longitudinal quantitative study. The studies were analysed using the seven categories of mistreatment outlined by Bohren et al. : 1) physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, stigma and discrimination, failure to meet professional standards of care, poor rapport between women and providers, and health system conditions and constraints. An additional category of ‘harmful traditional practices and beliefs’ emerged from the Indian literature, which was also included in the review. Although geographically limited, the selected research highlighted varying prevalences of the different forms of ‘obstetric violence’ in both public and private birth facilities in India. ‘Obstetric violence’ in India was found to be associated with socio-demographic factors, with women of lower social standing experiencing greater levels of mistreatment. In response to this normalized public health issue, a multi-pronged, rights-based framework is proposed that addresses the social, political and structural contexts of ‘obstetric violence’ in India.
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DOI 10.1017/s0021932019000695
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