South Africa: #AmINext - New Screening Guidelines for Gynaecologists, Obstetricians

10 September 2019

The South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecology (Sasog) has introduced new guidelines for the routine screening of females victims of intimate partner violence (IPV).

"GBV (gender-based violence) is a public health scourge that affects one in every three women globally and is no doubt the most pervasive of all human rights violations. In South Africa, a woman is killed every three hours, ranking femicide in this country fourth highest in the world.

"Most GBV takes place in the home and is perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) takes the form of physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression and is estimated to be responsible for 38% of women who are murdered worldwide," Sasog said in a statement on Tuesday.

In terms of the new guidelines, obstetricians and gynaecologists will be obliged to:

perform regular screening for IPV as part of the routine medical history;

provide a private and safe setting for the screening to take place;

use professional language interpreters;inform patients of the confidentiality of the discussion;

and provide printed take-home resource material.

"SASOG believes that obstetricians and gynaecologists are in a position to make a real difference to women affected by GBV. We urge our members, [who] include the majority of obstetricians and gynaecologists in the country, to immediately adopt these guidelines in the interest of healing our nation of this scourge." Said Professor Priya Soma-Pillay - a Sasog representative on the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO).

The guidelines come after the death of young women in South Africa, including Uyinene Mrwetyana, Leighandre Jegels, Meghan Cremer and Ayakha Jiyane and her three siblings - all acts of gender-based violence.

Soma-Pillay said the cycle of abuse prevented victims from leaving.

"A typical cycle will begin with a build-up of tension which leads to a battering phase, graduating to a honeymoon phase when the abuser may apologise, buy gifts or make promises of no more violence," she explained.

The stigma associated with IPV in society means that less than 10% of victims will seek help through the criminal justice system.

As a result, Sasog is of the view that it is the healthcare practitioner's duty to identify, acknowledge, support and treat women who are in abusive relationships.

"IPV affects women in many ways that include physical, emotional and psychological wounds. Women who have experienced violence may present with acute injuries like traumatic brain injury, an unintended pregnancy, or chronic conditions such as headaches, depression, insomnia and pelvic pain.

"It is the responsibility of the physician to be aware of the signs of abuse and to be able to provide referrals, resources and a compassionate, caring environment," Soma-Pillay added.

Source: News24

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