Cyprus Mail

Coronavirus: ombudswoman says wrong to exclude non-Covid fathers from labour wards 

Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottides

Fathers should be allowed into the delivery rooms during the birth of their children if they test negative for coronavirus, Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou Lottides said on Friday.

The ombudswoman said she was prompted to weigh in on the matter after receiving complaints that state and private hospitals had decided or were inclined to ban fathers during labour.

“The exclusion of future fathers in an absolute way from attending childbirth, invoking the emergency due to Covid-19, is not in line with the World Health Organisation  (WHO) guidelines, and the non-discrimination rule in relation to the obligation for more favourable treatment on women’s issues related to motherhood,” Lottides said in a report published on Friday.

Women’s rights during childbirth, must be protected during the Covid-19 pandemic she said, if all of the necessary precautionary and protective measures are taken to avoid the risk of spreading the virus. Otherwise it would constitute direct gender discrimination against pregnant women wishing to have the person of their choice present during childbirth.

The ombudswoman recalled that among the rights expectant mothers have in order to ensure a safe and positive experience during childbirth, is respect for their choices and preferences, including the choice of the person who will be with them during labour.

“I recommend that all hospitals, state and private, allow the presence of fathers during labour and the birth of their children, if each father tests negative for coronavirus,” Lottides said.

She added that her opinion was based on the scientific recommendations of international organisations such as the WHO, the International Confederation of Midwives and the United Nations Population Fund.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, also recommends to the CoE member states in the context of tackling the pandemic, ensures full access of women to services without any discrimination, “which in terms of motherhood, means the prohibition of less favourable treatment,” Lottides said.

She said she has submitted this report to the health minister who is the competent authority for issuing such instructions to state and public hospitals in order for them to abide by this recommendation.