Tag Archives: CEDAW

March 25th: Raising awareness and preventing violence against women and girls with disabilities

The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, managed by UN Women, has proclaimed every 25th of the month as “Orange Day,” as a day to take action to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls. Today, March 25, 2017, UNiTE is highlighting the issue of violence against women and girls with disabilities. Click here to read more on this campaign. Because of this, I’ve dedicated today’s blog on women and girls with disabilities. Furthermore, CBM’s mandate includes gender equality, which specifically addresses multiple and intersectional discrimination faced by women and girls with disabilities. Please continue reading for more information.

Background

Persons with disabilities comprise 15 percent of the world’s population or 1 billion people of whom 80 percent lives in low- and middle-income countries. Women and girls with disabilities make up at least 50 percent of this population. Persons with disabilities are more likely to live in impoverished conditions and to be the most marginalized.

Women and girls with disabilities encounter additional barriers, including exclusion from participation in a sustainable and inclusive economy; an increased risk of violence and abuse; lack of access to justice; minimal participation in political and public life; and prejudice and discriminatory attitudes in sexual health, reproductive rights and in the right to family life.[1] Additionally, there are barriers for women and girls with disabilities to accessing justice, including with regard to exploitation, violence and abuse, due to harmful stereotypes, discrimination and lack of procedural and reasonable accommodations, which can lead to credibility being doubted and accusations being dismissed.[2] Moreover, women and girls with disabilities are largely invisible in mainstream gender-equality programs.

In terms of violence, women and girls with disabilities are at least two to three times more likely than women and girls without disabilities to experience violence and abuse,[3] and they are likely to experience abuse over a longer period of time, resulting in more severe injuries.[4] Women and girls with disabilities worldwide face a wide range of unique human rights abuses in sexual and reproductive healthcare settings, due to both their gender and disability.[5]

Linked to this, persons with disabilities encounter specific barriers in terms of accessing healthcare services, including higher costs for persons with disabilities, lack of accessible transportation, and inadequately trained medical staff. Moreover, women and girls with disabilities face additional barriers, such as enhanced constraints on traveling independently or preconceptions about whether they need certain services, such as sexual and reproductive health services.[6] An additional challenge for women with disabilities is the design and functionality of assistive devices, which are seldom designed to facilitate the different sizes and preferences of women and the type of work or daily life activities. Instead assistive devices are often designed to answer to the requirements and lifestyle of men.[7]

Studies also suggest that women with disabilities more often seek health care than women without disabilities, but have worse health outcomes and rate their well-being as lower than both men with disabilities and women without disabilities.[8] Seeking health care more often can be costly and even more so if living in poverty,[9] and additionally, women with disabilities spend more of their income on medical care and health-related expenses than men with disabilities.[10] At the same time, women with disabilities often have less disposable income and control over resources, which impact their right to an equal health status and can create a vicious circle of exclusion and ill health. Women with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 44 have almost 2.5 times the yearly healthcare expenditures compared to women without disabilities. And, women with disabilities between the ages of 45 and 64 have more than three times the average yearly expenditures of their counterparts without disabilities.[11]

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and particularly Goal 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls have a key role in creating opportunities for women and girls with disabilities to fulfill their full potential. Moreover, both Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and General Comment No. 3 recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subjected to multiple discrimination. When addressing the challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities it is imperative to use the SDGs within the frameworks of the legally binding CRPD and Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which create an effective platform from which to advocate for positive change.

I will close with some reflections and suggestions on the empowerment of women and girls with disabilities. First, it is important to be aware of the different layers of intersectionality and multiple discrimination of women and girls with disabilities, especially those such as Indigenous, youth, or other groups of women with disabilities. Second, there needs to be increased participation, engagement, and trainings between the gender movement and the disability movement to learn, exchange, and build on intersections between the movements. And, third, there must be increased and strengthened cross-movement collaboration and multi-stakeholder partnerships to truly “leave no one behind,” including women and girls with disabilities.

Thank you to Mary Keogh, Diane Kingston and Stephanie Ortoleva who contributed to this article in different ways.

Additional Information

Five Perspectives on Gender Equality

References

[1] CBM (2015). “Dialogues on Sustainable Development: A Disability-inclusive Perspective,” CBM.

[2] CRPD Committee, Gen. Comment No. 3, supra note 2, ¶ 52.

[3] United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Untied States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally 7 (Aug. 10, 2012), http://www.state.gov/documents/

organization/196468.pdf. It is worth noting that no global data exists on the incidence of such violence, and studies draw on different sources of data.

[4] SRVAW, Report on women with disabilities, supra note 26, ¶ 31.

[5] Women Enabled International Submission to OHCHR: Protection of the Rights of the Child and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, October 17, 2016

[6] CBM (2015). “Dialogues on Sustainable Development: A Disability-inclusive Perspective,” CBM.

[7] Comité Español de Representantes de Personas con Discapacidad (CERMI). (2012). “Guide to gender mainstreaming in public disability policies,” CERMI Collection no 54, Spain: pp. 289-290.

[8] WHO (2004). World Health Survey, 2002-2004. http://www.who.int/healthinfo/survey/en/.

[9] WHO and World Bank. (2011). ”World Report on Disability,” WHO Press, Geneva, p. 60.

[10] Women With Disabilities Australia. (2016). http://wwda.org.au/.

[11] Blanchard, J. & Hosek, S. (2003). “Financing Health Care for Women with Disabilities.” A RAND White Paper prepared for the FISA Foundation. www.wwda.org.au/health2001.htm.