Friday, 7 February 2014

Hungarian midwife Agnes Gereb continues to remain under arrest for the 'crime' of assisting women to give birth at home

It is with sadness and frustration that I write about jailed Hungarian midwife Agnes Gereb. I took part in the mass screening of the documentary ‘Freedom for Birth’ in September 2012, which highlighted how women in the western world are still unable to choose how and where they give birth. It focused in particular on Dr Agnes Gereb, a qualified obstetrician and midwife who revolutionised Hungarian methods of supporting women in childbirth. She instigated fathers being allowed onto the labour wards and her campaigning for women’s rights to choose where and how they give birth made her unpopular with her hospital colleagues. Despite the risk of arrest, as it was illegal to assist women to give birth at home in Hungary, she assisted in 3,500 home births. However, she was finally arrested in October 2010 and charged with ‘reckless endangerment of life committed in the line of duty’  

Since her arrest it has now been made legal for a medical professional to assist women to give birth at home (thanks to the case of Ternovszky versus Hungary) yet Agnes remains under house arrest. Her trial was due to take place in December 2013, however it was postponed and no further date has been set, despite the continual international calls for her release, including condemnation of her detention by the Royal College of Midwives among numerous other birth-supporting bodies.   

Had I not got involved in Freedom for Birth, I, like many others, would have been unaware of Agnes’ situation. To date, Amnesty have refused to get involved. I written to the Amnesty International Secretariat and even spoken with good intentioned Amnesty workers who have all promised me an explanation as to why but, despite being a fully paid up member, I am yet to receive a response to my letters and emails.

Yesterday, talking a friend and hynopbirthing instructor, we discussed Agnes’ situation and bizarrely within an hour an appeal went out on Freedom for Birth Facebook page confirming that Agnes still has no trial date and for followers to pledge their support in anyway they can.  

Like the parents of the children Agnes helped to bring into the world, who surrounded the prison where she was held on her birthday, to sing to her, it seems the only action we can take at this moment, is to lift Agnes’ spirits. So please take a moment to like the Freedom for Birth Facebook page (HERE) and write a note of support to Agnes, who will see your message and know that her supporters are thinking of her, and thus creating a spark of hope that a trial date will be confirmed soon and her release will be imminent. 

Further reading:

The petition the Hungarian Prime Minister has now expired however, the accompanying article is very interesting

Further information about the online campaign to free Agnes Gereb HERE

Excellent article written by maker of the documentary and birth warrior Toni Harman for the Huffington Post - HERE

The only existing charity that supports women's rights in childbirth - Birthrights

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