The revised Universal Charter on the Rights of Childbearing Women: expanding the charter to include newborns and stillborn infants

The revised Universal Charter on the Rights of Childbearing Women: expanding the charter to include newborns and stillborn infants

Sacks, E (1), Ateva, E (2), Palgi-Hakker, H (2)

(1) Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, (2) White Ribbon Alliance

Background:
In 2011, the Universal Charter on the Rights of Childbearing Women was published. The Charter draws on universally-agreed-upon principles of human rights, ratified by almost all governments. These articles are written in plain English and have been translated into multiple languages. The Charter, which has been posted in health facilities worldwide, has been used as an advocacy tool with ministries of health, the media, and patients and providers themselves.

Methods:
With the recognition that the Charter focused almost exclusively on the rights of women, an effort began in 2018 to update and expand the charter to explicitly include the rights of newborns. A systematic review of scientific literature, as well as a review of legal and regional guidance documents, was undertaken, and multiple consultations were held with families, patients, providers, and policymakers. The systematic review explored the previously-identified categories of mistreatment – including non-consented care, non-confidential care, non-dignified care, discrimination based on specific attributes, and denial of care – to ascertain how these applied to care or mistreatment of newborns. Most rights are shared by the mother and infant, including the mother’s right to consent for birth and bereavement options, but that there may be rare potential conflicts between multiple parents/caregivers, or the parents and the interests of the child, which may need to be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

Conclusions:
Not only were exampled identified of mistreatment in most of the pre-existing categories, further categories specific to newborns were identified: (1) the legal right of each infant to a birth certificate and nationality, as well as a death certificate, regardless of age at death; and (2) the right of families to bereavement care, including their rights to decide if and how to celebrate or memorialize a deceased infant. The revision, launched in June 2019, was a necessary, but complex, update, and should continue to be improved over time.

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