In an own-initiative Report dated 8 May 2020, the Cyprus Commissioner for Administration and the Protection of Human Rights suggested that public and private hospitals with gynecological clinics should allow fathers to be present during childbirth and the birth of their children, provided that each father is successfully subjected to a COVID-19 negative test.
The Commissioner said she was prompted to weigh in on the matter after receiving complaints that public and private hospitals had decided or were inclined to ban fathers during labour.
Under her competence as an Equality Body, the Commissioner stressed that 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. She also stated that ensuring maternity protection prohibits any less favourable treatment of a woman, in particular as regards pregnancy, childbirth, lactation and motherhood and a violation of the above, constitutes gender discrimination.
Women’s rights during childbirth, must be protected during the Covid-19 pandemic the Commissioner 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.
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.
The Commissioner recommended that all hospitals, public and private, allow the presence of fathers during labour and the birth of their children, if each father tests negative for COVID-19. The Commissioner underlined 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.
A special reference was made to the recommendation made by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, to the CoE member states in the context of tackling the pandemic, to ensure full access of women to services without any discrimination, which in terms of motherhood, means the prohibition of less favourable treatment.
The Report was submitted to the Minister of Health who is the competent authority for issuing such instructions to public and private hospitals in order for them to abide the recommendation issued by the Commissioner.
Source: Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman) of Cyprus