Obstetric violence is a human rights violation that consists of actions or omissions of healthcare personnel that harms people during pregnancy, childbirth or puerperium. Some practices through which it is expressed are the mistreatment, unnecessary procedures, denying of medical attention or provoking damage either physically or mentally. In particular, we understand obstetric violence as the result of a colonization of the womb, that is, of the occupation of the concept of motherhood by the dictates of patriarchal ideology (Fineman, 1991; Ehrenreich, 1993) and of the Colonial/Modern Gender System, proposed by Lugones (2007). The objective of this paper is to analyze the experiences of obstetric violence and the different agency forms of women who have experienced it in hospitals in Tijuana, Mexico. To achieve this, we follow Galtung (1969, 1990, 1998) who states that direct violence is just the tip of the iceberg of cultural and structural forms of violence that are more difficult to see. Based on Bourdieu (2001) and De Certeau (1998), agency is classified in four categories: 1) unawareness, 2) passive awareness, 3) tactics and 4) strategies. The intersectional analysis of the narrative stories of 20 women leads us to conclude that both those who have privileged positions and those who experience different oppressions based on their identity characteristics perform their agency in various ways. Including modern and non-modern knowledges, relations, values and practices, Decolonial Feminism (Lugones, 2010) contributes to an understanding of the decolonization of the womb at the collective level while simultaneously influencing individual learning and promoting social justice and the formation of a culture of rights.

Note on the Author

Ester Espinoza-Reyes holds a PhD in Cultural Studies from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (El Colef), where she defended her thesis “Descolonizar el útero: Experiencias y agencia frente a la violencia obstétrica en Tijuana” (2019). She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at Universidad Pedagógica Nacional Tijuana. Her main research interests include: obstetric violence and women’s agency, gender and religion studies. She published the paper “Entre el discurso religioso y las prácticas de sexualidad femenina en una iglesia pentecostal en Tijuana, México” at the journal Culturales (UABC, 2015).

Marlene Solís Pérez holds a Phd in Social Sciences from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. She belongs to the Mexican National System of Researchers, level I. She is a professor-researcher at the Department of Social Studies, El Colef, also she has been coordinator of the Phd in Cultural Studies. Her research topics include: labor and gender, gender violence, border and social change. Among her recent publications is the edition of the book Gender Transitions Along Borders: The Northern Borderlands of Mexico and Morocco (Routledge, 2016).