Human Rights and Civil Society

CNDH opens investigations into alleged rights violations of indigenous women in Oaxaca

The hospital in Miahuatlcán de Porfirio de Díaz, Oaxaca. Photo: Google Maps.
The hospital in Miahuatlcán de Porfirio de Díaz, Oaxaca. Photo: Google Maps.

03/07/14 (written by lcalderón) — The National Commission of Human Rights in Mexico (Comisón Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) has opened two new investigations into allegations of medical negligence against two indigenous women in Oaxaca. The basis for the investigations stem from the argument that hospitals and medical facilities must properly attend to indigenous women without any discrimination, especially if they are pregnant.

The first investigation is into the case of an indigenous woman in Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz, Oaxaca, who passed away on February 25, 2014 because of medical complications resulting from the birth of her twins the year before. On February 10, 2013, she gave birth to twins in a hospital, the first of which was delivered naturally and the second through a C-section procedure. According to Proceso, the victim was kept under doctors’ observation for a few days, but was eventually released. She returned three days later with a serious infection in her uterus, which was caused by a pair of scissors that were inadvertently left inside her during the C-section surgery. After emergency surgery to remove the “forgotten” scissors on February 17, 2013, she slipped into a comma where she remained until February 25 of this year when she passed away.

CNDH is also launching an investigation into an indigenous woman identified as Oricel Santiago Gómez who had to give birth to her child in the restroom of La Paz Community Hospital (Hospital Comunitario La Paz) located in the Sierra Sur region of Oaxaca. Reports indicate that the expectant 18-year-old mother went to the hospital on February 28, 2014 because she feeling pains in her stomach, but was initially denied medical attention because her child was not yet ready for delivery. Medics instead instructed her to take a walk to help ready the child into position. Santiago Gómez then delivered the baby in the hospital’s bathroom.

CNDH_logoThese recent cases are not isolated incidences; rather they add to a growing list of alleged violations of women’s rights to health in Oaxaca at the hand of the state’s Health Services (Servicios de Salud). According to Proceso, Santiago Gómez was the sixth person in Oaxaca in the past six months that, “because of the negligence of the Health Services in Oaxaca,” had to give birth either on the street, in restrooms or on health clinic grounds without being admitted. The CNDH launched an investigation into one of the earlier cases, and delivered in February a recommendation (Recomendación 1/2014) to Oaxaca Governor Gabino Cué’s administration for “inadequate medical attention.” The victim in that case was expectant indigenous mother Irma López, who delivered her baby on the doorstep of a medical clinic in Jalapa de Díaz, Oaxaca in October 2013. The same clinic was previously named in another victim’s case just months before when expectant indigenous mother Cristina López gave birth outside of the clinic’s doors after being denied entrance in July 2013.

In response to the recent allegations in February, the CNDH has sent evaluators to the hospitals in question and representatives to the victims’ families in order to gather more information about the cases’ details. The Commission is also working in coordination with the Attorney’s General Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia, PGJ) and sanitary authorities to analyze the cases. The Commission is stressing that the right to healthcare must be defended, and demanded that the principle be upheld even more so in cases involving vulnerable groups, particularly indigenous women. The CNDH has been working on making efficient, free, and qualified healthcare available and attainable for such populations. Once the investigations conclude, the CNDH will publicly release its findings, likely in the form of another recommendation similar to the one recently published in February.

The public has also shown its frustration with the pattern of human rights violations suffered by women in Oaxaca, specifically expectant indigenous women. Tens of thousands of signatures with the support of more than 40 civil society organizations have petitioned Governor Cué to not only better protect women’s rights, but to also ask for Secretary of Health Germán Tenorio Vasconcelos to resign in light of the recent allegations. This is also coming on the heels of recent criticism aimed at the federal government for poorly protecting indigenous land rights, and allegedly failing to deliver much-need disaster relief following Hurricane Ingrid and Tropical Storm Manuel in September 2013.


Redacción. “Otra vez Oaxaca: Dejan Tijeras en matriz de indígena, entra en coma y fallece.” Proceso. February 28, 2014. 

Redacción. “Una mujer de Oaxaca muere porque médicos ‘olvidaron’ tijeras en su matriz.” SDP Noticias. February 28, 2014.

“CNDH investiga caso de mujer indígena que dio a luz a su hijo en el baño del albergue de hospital de Oaxaca.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. March 2, 2014.

Associated Press. “Inicia CNDH averiguaciones por negligencia médica en casos de partos en Oaxaca.” La Jornada. March 2, 2014.

“CNDH investiga caso de oaxaqueña que parió en baño de hospital.” Noticieros Televisa. March 2, 2014.

Matías, Pedro. “Investiga la CNDH caso de oaxaqueña que dio a luz en un baño.” Proceso. March 2, 2014.

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