Odds stacked against : Multiple discrimination is keeping women with disabilities from reaching their true potential

Women with intellectual disabilities are more likely to become victims of domestic violence. They are more likely to be sexually abused, and, if pregnant, more likely to have their children taken away from them. They are also more likely to be forcibly sterilized or trafficked, but at the same time, lack of reasonable accommodation means their testimonies are more likely to be dismissed in court. This list could go on and on. In most areas of life, women with disabilities in general, and intellectual disabilities in particular, are faced with systematic, multiple discrimination, as a result of the interplay between their gender and disability status.

With this in mind, Inclusion Europe welcomes the draft General Comment on Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). As a comprehensive interpretation, Inclusion Europe hopes it will give a much-needed impetus to Member States to immediately begin putting anti-discrimination provisions into place, to benefit all women and girls with disabilities.

While Inclusion Europe supports the stance of the CRPD Committee in including violence against women with disabilities, the restriction of sexual and reproductive rights and intersectional discrimination as its three main subjects of concern, Inclusion Europe believes further additions and clarifications are needed to ensure the General Comment will indeed improve the lives of women and girls with intellectual disabilities. In a submission to the UN CRPD Committee, Inclusion Europe stressed the need to emphasize that women with different impairments may face different barriers. The situation of women with profound intellectual disabilities or with complex needs is especially concerning, as many can easily become victims of violence or abuse and targets of coercion and harm. Moreover, women with intellectual disabilities are many times victims of forced abortion, are likely to be denied the possibility of adopting a child, and often have their children taken away from them and placed in institutions, foster care or given for adoption. They are also rarely provided with sexual education, so are unable to detect and report abuse. Therefore, Inclusion Europe believes the General Comment should particularly reference Article 23 on the ‘Right to respect for home and the family,’ as it interrelates with the right of girls and women with disabilities. The Committee should also mention Article 25 on the ‘Right to Health,’ knowing that studies show women with disabilities face clear discrimination when it comes to accessing health and prevention services, with serious, long-term consequences.

National governments should strive to remove all physical, structural and informational barriers that prevent women with disabilities from enjoying their fundamental rights on an equal basis with others. Women and girls with disabilities should be empowered to make decisions related to their own lives and should be closely involved in the development of all policies that affect their well-being. Only when these measures are implemented will women with disabilities become more likely to succeed.

For more information, please contact Silvana Enculescu, Inclusion Europe Communications Manager, at s.enculescu@inclusion-europe.org

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